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Department of Premier and Cabinet

A continuum of collaboration

In practice, there are a wide range of relationships between agencies.  The breadth of these relationships is captured in the continuum below.[1] 

Networking Coordinating Cooperating Collaborating
  • Exchange of information for mutual benefit
  • Informal relationship
  • Minimal time and trust
  • No sharing of resources
  • Exchange of information for mutual benefit
  • Alter activities
  • Formal relationship
  • Requires moderate time and trust
  • Minimal sharing of resources
  • Exchanging information
  • Alter activities
  • Sharing resources to achieve a common purpose
  • Formal relationships
  • Substantial time and trust required
  • Some sharing of risks and rewards
  • Exchange information
  • Share resources
  • Enhance capacity of another to achieve a common purpose
  • Formal relationship and structures
  • Joint planning, implementation and evaluation
  • Extensive time and trust required
  • Share risks, responsibilities, rewards
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The continuum demonstrates that not all inter-agency relationships require formal arrangements.  The extent to which goals, power, resources, risks, successes and accountabilities are shared across the continuum varies.  

At one end of the scale are informal networks through which information is exchanged for mutual benefit.  It requires a minimal level of time and trust and does not require sharing resources.  Coordination and cooperation can involve varying levels of time and resources, and is where a lot of Tasmanian inter-agency work probably fits in the scale.  Collaborative relationships are depicted at the furthest end of the continuum where common goals, high levels of commitment, and shared risks, responsibilities and rewards are established.  Collaboration involves recognised interdependencies and a high level of integration. 

It is important to analyse the whole-of-government task you are involved in, and recognise it for what it is on the continuum above.  If it is purely a networking or information sharing forum, it is unlikely to lead to any real outcomes or improved service delivery.  Whilst it is important to acknowledge the value of information sharing networks, if real results are necessary, effort, time and resources are required to move from networking and cooperation to true collaboration. 

The key purpose of this paper is to encourage government agencies to work towards the collaborative end of the continuum, where appropriate, to solve difficult issues across government. Networking and cooperation remain important building blocks in developing collaborative relationships. 

The next section of this paper discusses the critical factors that are required to move from coordination and cooperation to collaboration.  The critical factors identified are also important to other relationships between agencies identified on the continuum above.  

[1] This diagram has been adapted from: Victorian State Services Authority 2007, Victorian Approaches to Joined Up Government, p5, which is adapted from Himmelman (2001).

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