academia, case studies, organisational design, team building

Building effective collaboration across organisations

Collaborative work can be inspiring and much more than the sum of its parts. But building an effective collaboration across organisations is challenging. That’s especially true when relying on volunteers or team members with only weak ties to the mission. This academic project relied on adding new consortium members to gain staff and funding. But many members were doing only the bare minimum, when the project needed more in order to organise and expand.

What did we do?

It was clear that the consortium wasn’t incentivising most members to collaborate above a bare-minimum level. They had strong relationships with the founder and believed in the mission, but members didn’t have time to spare. Recognising barriers to collaboration is essential if you want to make practical changes to improve the situation.

Two things were needed to move forward.

  1. A broader network of semi-permanent staff who could provide institutional memory.
  2. New ways to build the collaboration into the research agendas of individual academics and their organisations.

Approach number 1 was an alternative solution to the problem of the project not having enough resource to maintain organisation and focus. Ideally collaborators would have self-organised. But adding this support framework meant the project could be credible as it pursued its ambitious programme. And it reduced the risk of the founder becoming a single point of failure!

Approach number 2 built on feedback, a vital way to build effective collaboration that gives as well as takes. This meant the project reprioritising some workstreams to respond to individual interests. But that strategic decision built engagement and helped cement commitment to the collaboration in the longer term.

This post is part of our case-studies series. You can read more about what we’ve achieved for people and organisations in other case studies here.