Ingredients for Successful Collaboration

The responses to our questions provide many rich insights into the key ingredients that make collaborative successful. Equally important is learning from such experiences about the qualities that erode collaborative. How do the observations from these rich experiences align with the work of scholars studying collaborative?​

Understanding the qualities which influence collaborative initiatives aimed at the environment and/or sustainability has been the subject of much scholarship. In fact, there have been multiple reviews undertaken for this purpose. A comprehensive meta-analysis on collaborative governance across domains was conducted by Ansell and Gash (2007, p. 543). They identified variables influencing success to include “prior history of conflict or cooperation, the incentives for stakeholders to participate, power and resources imbalances, leadership, and institutional design.”

Another example comes from the review of adaptive co-management by Armitage et al. (2009), who synthesize 10 conditions for success.

Recently, a systematic mapping review of collaboration in environmental management and governance was conducted by Feist et al. (2020). They a long list of qualities, with the most prominent being “… trust building, social learning, dialogue, and active involvement…” (Feist et al., 2020, p. 1).

Finally, Plummer et al. (2021) conducted a Canadian national study to identify the aspects and qualities that make up a good partnership between HEIs and communities. They list multiple aspects and qualities of a high-performing HEI-community partnership, breaking down the qualities between inputs that are dedicated to the partnership, the actual process by which the partnership operates, as well as the outcomes or resulting impacts from the partnership.  ​

As you can see from the bolded text in these tables, there are multiple ingredients for success that are common across different types of collaborative efforts. For example, going into a new initiative it is important to clearly define the problems and aims of the initiative. Factors that affect the process are also similar across initiatives, such as building trust, mutual respect, shared-decision making, commitment to the project, and so on. Having a successful collaborative initiatives can be hard work, but working to keep these qualities in check will make the process enjoyable as well as rewarding.


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Building Sustainable Communities: Collaboration by Ryan Plummer; Amanda Smits; Samantha Witkowski; Bridget McGlynn; Derek Armitage; Ella-Kari Muhl; and Jodi Johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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