Belinda Biscoe, Ph.D.
Director of the Mid-Continent Comprehensive Center (MC3)
The 4th Annual Leveraging Resources Conference
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office of Special Education Programs
March 25, 2009
“The failure of hierarchies to
solve society’s problems forced
people to talk to one another---
and that was the beginning of
What is Collaboration?
What does the Research Tell Us about Collaboration?
What Factors Support Collaboration?
What is Important to Consider in Evaluating
What are the Benefits of Collaboration?
What are the Implications of the Research for the
National Technical Assistance and
Research and Development Networks?
Gray (1991, p. 4) defined collaboration as
“a process through which parties who see
different aspects of a problem can
constructively explore their differences
and search for solutions that go beyond
their own limited vision of what is
Gray, B, & Wood, D.
Collaborative Alliances: Moving
from Practice to Theory, 1991
• Gray (1985, p. 912) defined collaboration as “the
pooling of appreciations and/or tangible resources,
e.g., information, money, labor, etc., by two or more
stakeholders to solve a set of problems which can
not be solved individually.”
Mattessich (2005) defines
collaboration as a mutually
beneficial and well-defined
relationship entered into by two or
more organizations to achieve
Collaboration is the creation of something
new and different that did not exist before--
• Policy, activity, program, etc.
It involves partners engaged in side-by-side
efforts to solve common problems, reconcile
conflicting interests, and advance shared
interests and goals (Biscoe, 1991).
Most definitions in the consultant literature
incorporate one fundamental characteristic. The
consultant and consultee work together in some
one or more phases:
• Problem identification
• Plan development and plan implementation
Schulte, A., et al, When
There appears to be no consolidated general theory of
collaboration according to the research reviewed.
Gray (1991) identified six major theoretical
perspectives that appear to have relevance in
explaining collaboration and collaborative alliances:
Resource dependence theory
Corporate social performance theory/institutional
Strategic management theory/social ecology theory
Institutional theory/negotiated order theory
• Researchers view collaboration as necessary
for success (Center for Mental Health in
Schools, 2003; Gajda, 2004; Grubbs, 2000;
• Collaboration is seen as a prerequisite for
sustaining interagency initiatives, particularly
those funded with time limited federal, state,
or local funds (Hogue, 1993; Perkins, 2002;
Bailey, D. & Koney, K. (2000), Gajda, R. (2004),
Peterson, N.L., (1991), and Hogue, T. (1993)
have all proposed conceptual models to
articulate the various levels of networking
within social-service-oriented alliances.
COMMUNICATION/ COORDINATION COADUNATION/
COEXISTENCE NETWORKING/ PARTNERING/ COALITION UNIFYING/
FORMING NORMING TRANSFORMING
1 2 3
PETERSON MODEL (1991)
1 2 3 4 5
BAILEY AND KONEY MODEL (2000)
1 2 3 4 5
HOGUE LEVELS OF COMMUNITY LINKAGE MODEL (1993)
STORM AND NORM AND TRANSFORM AND ADJOURN
ASSEMBLE ORDER PERFORM
GAJDA MODEL (2004)
WHEN PLAN IS
WORKING A DECISION TO
DEVELOPING TOGETHER TO CONTINUE AS A
GROUPS EXIST SHARING COMMON IMPLEMENT, TEAM WITH NEW
WITH NO GETTING TO KNOW COMMONALITIES GROUND AND A MONITOR, AND ISSUES OR
COLLABORATION ONE ANOTHER AND PLAN OF EVALUATE THE RECONSTITUTE THE
AMONG THEM AND THEIR TASKS DIFFERENCES ACTION PLAN TEAM12
Levels Purpose Structure Process
Networking Clearinghouse for Roles loosely Low key leadership,
(Communication) information defined minimal decision
making, little conflict
Cooperation or Limit duplication of Roles somewhat Facilitative leaders,
Alliance services defined complex decision
Coordination or Share resources to Roles defined Autonomous
Partnership address common Central body of leadership, but focus in
issues people are decision on issue
Coalition Share ideas and be All members Shared leadership,
willing to pull involved in decision decision making formal
resources from making with all members
existing systems Roles and time
Collaboration Accomplish shared Consensus used in Leadership high, trust
Bergstrom Arno, et al. (1995). vision and impact shared decision level high, productivity
National Network for
Collaboration benchmarks making high 13
According to Wood and Gray (1991), a comprehensive
theory of collaboration must address
“the meaning of collaboration itself,
the auspices under which a collaboration is convened
and the role of intervention in directing social
the implications of collaboration for environmental
complexity and organizational control over the
the relationship between an organizations’ self-
interests and the collective interests present in a
collaborative alliance.” 14
According to Paul Mattessich (2005), the
following factors support collaboration:
3. Process and Structure
• Define the problem clearly.
• Identify core partners to develop the program.
• Develop a common vision.
• Ensure everyone has a voice and is treated with respect.
• Define program and collaboration goals.
• Define process and plan of work.
• Establish and nurture trusting relationships with collaborators.
• Provide benefits to members and align reward structure with
• Evaluate program and collaboration to provide evidence of outcomes.
• Use evaluation results to modify, expand, and/or drop the collaboration
to maximize success and/or sustainability--alter course as needed.
Strieter & Blalock 2006
Five Levels of Collaboration and Their Characteristics
Networking Cooperation Coordination Coalition Collaboration
1 2 3 4 5
Relationship Aware of Provide Share All members Consensus is
Characteristics organization information to information and have a vote in reached on all
each other resources decision making decisions
Safe Schools, Healthy Students No Interaction Networking Cooperation Coordination Coalition Collaboration
Mental Health Agency 0 1 2 3 4 5
Early Childhood Programs 0 1 2 3 4 5
Parent Education 0 1 2 3 4 5
School Dist. Prev. Counselors 0 1 2 3 4 5
After School Programs 0 1 2 3 4 5
Student Improvement Teams 0 1 2 3 4 5
Principals 0 1 2 3 4 5
Teachers 0 1 2 3 4 5
Police Department 0 1 2 3 4 5
In general, an evaluation on the collaboration should
ask the following questions:
• Process evaluation--What activities took place?
• Outcome evaluation--What was accomplished?
• Impact evaluation--What were the long term effects?
Wolff, T., 2002
Assessment Tools for Evaluating Collaborations
Annual Satisfaction Surveys for Coalitions (Fawcett, 1997)
Diagnosing Your Coalition: Risk Factors for Participation (Kaye, 1993)
Assessing Your Collaboration’s Commitment to Agency and Community-Based
Approaches (Chavis and Florin, 1990)
Climate Diagnostic Tool: The Six Rs of Participation (Kaye and Resnick, 1994)
Responsibility Charting (Florin and Chavis, 1996)
Inclusivity Checklist (Rosenthal, 1997)
Task Force Evaluation and Resource Allocation (Hathaway, B.L., 2001 a,b,c)
Sustainability Benchmack (Wolff, 1994)
Annual Reports (in general)
Wolff, T., 2002
Other Assessment Tools for Evaluating
A Collaboration Checklist (Borden, 1999)
Strategic Alliance Formative Assessment Rubric (Gajda, 2004)
National High School Center RCC Collaborative Project Checklist
IDEA Partnership Community of Practice on Transition--
Community Building--Key Features of Success-IDEA
Partnership: Success Rating Scale
Effective strategy for the complexity and
magnitude of issues
Economic realities--improved efficiency, reduced
Improvements in customer services
More resources to respond to a crisis
Improvements in a system
Reduction in expenses for operational
Mattessich, 2005 21
Conditions for Success of these Emerging
Create a shared vision for a national TA and R&D
Establish guiding principles to support our work.
Use these research findings to articulate better the
stages of our partnerships and to determine outcomes
Operationalizing the stages of collaboration
Communication to collaboration
Ongoing planning , assessment, and evaluation
Understanding of Best Practices on educational issues and processes
Research on educational issues
Can our collaborations survive after the initial objectives have been met?
If so, how?
Source: Aha! Jokes
“We don't accomplish anything in this world alone ...
and whatever happens is the result of the whole
tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual
threads from one to another that creates something."
--Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor,
first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court