The latest version of my book Achieving Collaborative Success is now freely available to read and download. Click on my picture to get it.

Friday 1 October 2021

Here is a great resource for identifying, encouraging and developing collaborative relationships


Collaboration is, at its heart, all about developing effective relationships between people from diverse backgrounds, communities and organisations, etc.

The "Relationship Project" offers great resources that will help you achieve this.

Click here to go to the project's website, where you will find resources that will help you do the following:

  • Map existing relationships and enhance their effectiveness.
  • Identify and develop new and potentially valuable relationships.
  • Support and encourage the roles and behaviours that are essential for developing and sustaining effective relationships.
  • Learn from others' experiences of developing and sustaining effective relationships.        

As a supplement to the above, I have written about the specific characteristics of the relationships that are most likely to underpin successful collaborative working. You can find out about these by clicking here    

Monday 26 April 2021

Five useful collaborative principles from cross-cultural collaboration in New Zealand

Here is a very useful article about cross-cultural collaboration in New Zealand:

“Koe wai hoki koe?!”, or “Who are you?!”: Issues of trust in cross‐cultural collaborative research (

The article is useful for two reasons: firstly, the collaboration it describes (between two very different cultures with an often problematic history) accentuates not only the difficulties associated with challenging collaborations but also the principles that need to be applied to overcome these difficulties; secondly, the principles identified can, I believe, be applied within many collaborative contexts.

For me, the principles that stand out as particularly important and widely applicable are as follows:

  • Thoughtfully and considerately using creative tools and approaches to encourage dialogue and participation. 
  • Continuously seeking to build relationships with people from diverse backgrounds to gain access to and benefit from often uniquely valuable knowledge, experiences and perspectives.
  • Developing the open-mindedness and humility required to learn from others.
  • Giving up control: allowing yourself to be led by someone else, and stepping aside so someone can express their own way of knowing and use their own way of doing whilst working within their own culture and environment.
  • Working with and adapting to the shifting temporal sands of collaboration: realising that who has to have humility, who has to give up control, and who has to stand aside to allow others to work with and from within their own cultures will alter with the changing needs and contexts of evolving collaboration.                     

(Read the article for examples of how the above principles can be applied.)  

Although some collaborations will not be so obviously challenging as the one described in the article, and many collaborations will possess different or subtly hidden challenges that are no less problematical, I believe that all collaborations that bring together partners from diverse backgrounds to address shared issues and problems will benefit significantly from discovering ways to apply the above principles.                 

Tuesday 13 April 2021

Collaboration can be looked at through many lenses, each lens revealing new insights

   A couple of lenses that I have looked at collaboration through are time and relationships. You can read about the insights revealed through these lenses by clicking on the previous links or by reading my book Achieving Collaborative Success.

  Timo J√§rvensivu looks at collaboration through the lens of networks and networking. Doing so reveals additional insights. Amongst these are the everchanging nature of networks (and consequently collaborations) and networks' need for flexible and creative management from the inside reaching out. To find out more about these and the other insights revealed, read Timo's book Managing (in) Networks.    


Sunday 21 February 2021

Some practical approaches for encouraging and developing dialogue

Here is a link to some practical approaches for encouraging and developing effective dialogue between partners:

Dialogue: practical approaches for encouraging and developing it

The link takes you to a free chapter from Timo J√§rvensivu's book Managing (in) Networks: Learning, Working and Leading Together

As Timo's chapter makes clear, dialogue emphasises "listening to understand", which encourages people to travel to the centre of issues and discover uncomfortably challenging facts and previously unspoken assumptions. "Listening to understand" discourages conversations where people are tempted to debate around issues and seek conveniently supportive facts and clearly victorious arguments.

When working in collaboration, the knowledge gained by engaging in dialogue rather than debate often leads to superior achievements. This is because dialogue encourages people to make a decision or take an action based upon realism and the confidence that they have considered all sides rather than upon idealism and the hope that they have backed the right side.   



Thursday 11 February 2021

Enhance collaboration by mapping informal networks and balancing formality with informality


Here is an article from the Harvard Business Review (by David Krackhardt and Jeffrey R. Hanson) that shows how mapping informal networks can improve an organisation's efficiency and effectiveness:

Informal Networks: The Company Behind the Chart

Collaborations between organisations will also benefit from this approach. By mapping informal advice, trust and communication networks, partners will uncover informal but significant relationship patterns that can then be analysed and leveraged to enhance day-to-day collaborative working.

Mapping informal networks will help redress the widespread bias toward formality that is built into the culture and fabric of many collaborations, especially if done alongside the approaches given here.



Friday 7 August 2020

Avoid the "Synecdoche Syndrome" like the plague

What do you see?

Scroll down to see the whole picture!

A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole and vice versa. We can immediately see from the above that this can often cause uncertainty, confusion and problems. It could even prove life threatening!    

Smart collaborations create interest and energy and encourage participation by quickly identifying and addressing high profile problems and issues relevant to their aspirations and purpose. 

But these high profile areas (be they acute medical issues, pressing social problems, high impact crime, or the presence of homeless people on the streets) can quickly begin to represent the entirety of the problem, obscuring the surrounding complex web of people, needs and other associated issues that combine to create the whole picture.

A health and social partnership may well have successfully addressed the needs of those with severe and pressing mental and/or physical health and social problems, but what of those who are not so badly off? Have their needs been addressed or has the severe and demanding part obscured the less severe and less demanding part? Do those with milder problems now need to wait until they become the "part of the problem" that is recognised and addressed?

It is right and proper that a collaboration should focus upon those parts of a problem that are most pressing. Arguably, it is even right and proper that a collaboration should focus upon high profile areas that will garner support and resources. 

If, however, the "Synecdoche Syndrome" infects a collaboration's thinking, if the part comes to represent the whole in people's minds and blanks out the bigger picture of current and future problems (and potential solutions) that would be otherwise revealed, a collaboration will have contracted a chronic condition that slowly eats away resources and diminishes effectiveness. Eventually, the needs of the many will grow and gradually inflame, overwhelm and weaken the discrete and specific priority areas a collaboration had previously dealt with so well.

A collaboration needs to look beyond the pressing, high profile issues that strongly demand attention and so easily attract support. It needs to future-proof its aspirations, purpose and activities by engaging with the whole of its environment: the whole of which it is only a part. It needs to acknowledge and analyse people's wider concerns, problems and issues and assimilate the insights, ideas (and potential solutions) consequently gained.

A collaboration must never mistake the part for the whole; it must avoid the Synecdoche Syndrome like the plague.  

Friday 24 July 2020

Towards a community paradigm: four principles of collaboration that can help us get there

This paper, by Adam Lent and Jessica Studdert of the New Local Government Network, describes a new way of meeting the diverse needs of local communities:

It advocates placing the power and decision-making associated with providing public services into the hands of local people and communities and describes how this is already starting to happen within current practices and initiatives.

It also describes how the above practices and initiatives could be built upon to create a new "Community Paradigm" for public service provision.

This new paradigm will require a wholesale shift of not only money and resources but also thinking and perceptions, and an increased emphasis upon collaboration will be key to making this shift happen successfully.

And collaborative working itself requires a wholesale shift in our usual assumptions about how things get done; indeed, it often requires that we think and act counter to these assumptions.

And thinking and acting counter to our usual assumptions about how things get done gradually reveals four principles that we need to keep in mind whilst collaborating with others: the more we keep the more we waste; the more others take the more we gain (and the less the cost the more the value); the more we control the less we control; and the more we collaborate the more we come into conflict.

The following blog post explores these four principles and describes how we can use them to navigate the complex world of collaboration and travel towards a new community empowered approach to public services.