7 Words to Sustain Your Collab

by Carol Reist


I have been a part of many networks and collaborations that fall apart at the stage of creating governance to support a good impetus that originally brought people together. I have seen a fiscal trustee destroy a collaboration. And most collaborations struggle to turn conversation into action. There are many resources out there for forming collaborations, and lessons learned. Yet the work of actually doing it can be overwhelming and difficult for a newly forming collaboration.

So, it is exciting to hear when community partnerships are happening and thriving.

I have been pondering what brings partnerships together and what are the important elements to put in place so they keep thriving. Below are my musings from what I observed that might be important to think about, even in the beginning stages.

1. Consult — Community Assessment and Needs Analysis must be a regular part of the collaborative (every three years).

2. Adapt — A collaborative needs to be flexible for changing circumstances. The “working together” for [a need] is the driving force, not the activities or program brought in to address it.

3. Hire — A paid coordinator can keep things moving so as not to burn out volunteers.

4. Together – Ensure your governance structure keeps decision making and responsibilities spread out to include many.

6. Succession – Ensure you maintain the different organizations represented at the table. When champions move on, know who will replace them from their organizations.

This next one might be more important than we realize, or maybe not. I am still pondering the impact of a fiscal trustee, alignment, and granting priorities on a collaboration.

7. Mentorship — A collaborative may need an organizational ‘mentor’ or a ‘fiscal trustee.’ It is an established organization (e.g. a charity) that has the ability to enter into contracts and may accept funds on behalf of an unincorporated collaborative. This partner can also give advice to keep the collaborative relevant and functioning well.

I think the motive of the fiscal trustee is important. Bluntly, some do it as a financial benefit.

I [prefer to] look to mission alignment. I look to mutual learning that can happen. I look to further partnerships and opportunities that open up when you work together rather than working alone. 

Author Carol Reist is Executive Director of The Dam that has been “partnering with youth to create inclusive community where all are welcomed, valued and respected” for 25 years. She is also on the Steering Committee of Erin Mills Connects.

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