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Department of Premier and Cabinet

When is collaboration necessary?

Collaborative approaches to complex problems should only be undertaken when necessary. Although there is a conviction about the effectiveness of collaboration, there is also a warning about its selective use.[1]

Making collaboration work effectively can be resource intensive, costly and time consuming, and a long term view may be required to obtain positive results. Competing political and community agendas can undermine its objectives. It is not the preferred approach for dealing with issues that can be handled effectively by one agency. It can, however, be particularly suitable for complex and/or longstanding policy issues which defy traditional agency boundaries.[2]

There is no strict formula for deciding when to involve other Government agencies and each situation should be examined on a case by case basis, weighing up the costs, benefits and risks. The following questions may assist in making an informed decision:

  1. What is the policy/service delivery problem?
  2. Policy development/planning: Would planning benefit from input from other agencies, or their core stakeholders?
    • Are you dependent on other agencies for key information or complementary action?
    • Will you need to demonstrate later that you consulted adequately?
    • Would representatives of affected groups be useful partners?
    • Are there disagreements on how best to address this issue?
    • Can your preferred policy approaches be offset by existing or proposed action by other agencies?
  3. Implementation/delivery: Will you need help from other agencies with program or service delivery?
    • Does another agency service the same demographic group?
    • Would shared delivery produce economies of scale?
    • Would coordination with other agencies be appreciated by clients?
  4. Accountability/reporting: Will more than one agency be required to report on results achieved?
    • Will reporting require information sharing?
    • Would positive or negative media interest affect more than one agency?[3]

The more ‘yes’ answers you give to these questions, the more likely it is that you have a whole-of-government project to manage, and other Tasmanian Government agencies and potentially other external stakeholders will need to be involved.

[1] Huxham, C and Vangen, S “Doing things collaboratively: Realising the Advantage or Succumbing to Inertia?” in O’Flynn J and Wanna J (Eds), 2008, Collaborative Governance: A new era of public policy in Australia, p.42; and Institute of Public Administration Australia, 2002, Working Together: Integrated Governance, p.x.

[2] Australian Public Service Commission, 2004, Connecting Government, p11.

[3] Australian Public Service Commission, 2004, Connecting Government: Good Practice Guide 1 “Does it make business sense?” p.1.

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