Thursday, April 6, 2017

Collaboration Analysis

Collaborations boil down to human relationships and the mutual interactions of multiple types of those relationships. Oftentimes we get caught up in the logistics and big picture strategic planning where people end up talking about systems and not people. It is easy to lose sight of an organization’s purpose when there are different visions of the broad agenda. The NASW Code of Ethics includes six core values, including two I plan to mention throughout this assessment to demonstrate how to maintain shared focus: the importance of human relationships and competence. It is integral to an organization’s health that leaders recognize the worth of each individual and the power that is created when one can connect all of those individuals in a productive way. It is also important to recognize an organization’s limits in what services it can provide to a community and what services it cannot.

Organizational partnerships carry various challenges. Establishing trust, effective communication, having a shared vision and resources, and incorporating shared decision making and strategic planning among all parties work together to foster strong collaborations (United Way, 2008). Three separate cases are presented below: a nonprofit-nonprofit collaboration, a nonprofit-public collaboration, and a nonprofit-private collaboration.

Timberland and City Year
A common theme in community organizing and nonprofit-for profit collaborations is: interest>ideology. In other words, “congruent values are different than congruent agendas.” When our values are at the core of who we are, how much can one compromise for the sake of the larger organization? The Timberland and City Year example presents a healthy case of this concept. Here, relationships were the key to building organizational effectiveness and much of the progress resulted from the type of intimacy the leaders of the organizations nurtured.  City Year grew from the resources provided to them from Timberland and also gained greater visibility due to the collaboration. Through this, Timberland’s image became larger and carried a message of social responsibility. People began to view Timberland as an organization committed to making positive change in society. Unfortunately, the collaboration began to struggle when both organizations faced financial difficulties. There was an overall lack of strategic planning which contributed to the weakening of the larger relationship.

The Seattle Art Museum and First Things First
Two nonprofits connected to increase their ability to receive funding from a tax levy referendum. The strengths of the collaboration included political capital from the museum and a relatively large volunteer base from FTF. Competence comes into play here; being two different organizations with different purposes it was difficult to maintain a shared purpose. A lack of communication and loss of shared vision also hurt the organizations.

The Massachusetts Department of Social Services and La Alianza Hispana
DSS was interested in bolstering its reputation and credibility among the Latinx community in Boston so they attempted to form a partnership with La Alianza, a nonprofit Latinx-serving organization.  DSS saw potential benefits from La Alianza in terms of their ability to reach the Latinx community and also offered funding and resources to attempt to balance the partnership. Again, there was a lack of understanding and shared purpose which contributed to the organizational dysfunction.

A few factors related to purpose that would help all of these cases are: having concrete attainable goals and objectives, a shared vision, and a unique purpose (Sharma & Missey, 1998). The cases are evidence of positive and negative ways to carry out the above. There is no single answer to why collaborations struggle so it is essential for leaders to keep a pulse on all involved stakeholders and partners in order to maintain healthy collaborations.


Elias, J. 1996. Timberland and Community Involvement. Supervisor James Austin. Harvard Business School Publishing. Boston, MA.

Fortier, S. 1996. Funding Seattle’s Art Museum and Low-Income Housing: The Politics of Interest Groups and Tax Levies (A). Supervisor Jon Brock. Cascade Center for Public Service: Public Service Curriculum Exchange.

Sharma, J., Missey, A. 1998. How I Learned to Stop Griping and Love Collaboration. National Community Service Conference, New Orleans, LA

United Way. 2008. “Best Practices Summary: Collaboration, Coalition-Building, and Merger.”

Varley, P. 1996. Partners in Child Protection Services: The Department of Social Services and La Alianza Hispana (A). Abridged. Kennedy School of Government. Boston, MA