I have always said that the first step to real collaboration, as opposed to just having a shared space to stick your unreadable documents, is having the self awareness, the humility, and the courage to admit that you need help.
Back when I was a local government officer, I used to be involved in things like local strategic partnerships – only the first word was, I think, accurate.
Anyway, various ‘delivery partners’ would turn up to a meeting, pledge to do something collaborative – i.e. something they were going to do anyway – and then go off and do it on their own, as they always would have done. Three months later, this activity would be announced at the result of partnership working and collaboration.
Am sure everyone reading this will have seen this happening, and as Euan says, no file sharing platform is going to fix this.
Instead, a sensible collaboration conversation ought to look like this:
- Decide on shared outcomes – are they really shared? are they really outcomes? Much of this is about aligning interests – all organisations should be open about their motivations and why they are collaborating. Then, through some enlightened self interest, it ought to be possible to plot a course that meets everyone’s needs, including the people all the partners are trying to help.
- Map what every organisation can bring to the table to help achieve those outcomes
- Identify the gaps. Is there another group who could meet those? If not, are they collaboration-killers? Can you still achieve your shared outcomes without those skills or resources? If not, you might need to reboot. Important: don’t pretend you can do something you can’t!
- Come up with a framework for organising and measuring activity and how it maps across to your outcomes, so you know whether you’re succeeding or not and can pivot accordingly
- Only meet if you really need to – and only have those that need to meet turn up – no agenda stuffing, or meat in the room
- Have an open way of reporting progress, through an online dashboard, say, so that everyone can see who is doing what and how much of an impact it is having.