Collaborative strategy process

Multi-organizational cross-sector social partnerships are becoming an increasingly common means of addressing complex social and ecological problems that are too extensive to be solved by any one organization. Sustainable development is one such challenge requiring the work of many to reach a viable path forward. So, what is the best way to form a successful partnership with a collaborative strategy?

Phase one involves considering the context of the issue and choosing relevant partners. Commonly, a lead organization will move forward with inviting initial partners. While it will be important to have key partners at the outset, the process of partnership formation can occur dynamically throughout the duration of the partnership and will most certainly evolve through time. The number of partners depends on the purpose of the partnership. It can vary from two organizations to over 800 organizations.

The second phase is comprised of creating the collaborative strategic plan to govern the activities of the partnership. Important at this stage, will be to build a common vision, value statements, and objectives that the partnership and partners can work on collectively. Dependant on the nature of the issue at hand, the extent of time this phase takes will vary.

Phase three, implementation, is two-pronged; at this point it is important to differentiate between the two, or three, kinds of implementation occurring simultaneously. At the level of the partnership, the activities which are implemented relate to broader objectives and require action by multiple stakeholders to be completed. At the level of each individual partner, activities are organizationally specific. Often, these kinds of activities will benefit the organization in addition to the partnership. Cumulatively, the actions of partners enable the partnership’s goals to be achieved.

The fourth phase begins when the objectives of the strategic plan are achieved through the activities of both the partnership and the individual partners. Six types of outcomes have been categorized for this phase: plan specific, process specific, partner specific, outside stakeholder specific, person specific, and context specific. Depending on what the partnership is interested in evaluating, will determine which outcomes should be measured. Also, various outcomes will be realized throughout the process and adjustments will need to be made at every phase. This will include changes in partners, objectives, or actions and could be influenced by outside forces or be products of the implementation activities themselves.

The below graphic represents these four phases with the addition of feedback loops representing the adjustments made at each phase.

The Collaborative Strategic Process

This content has been derived from:

Clarke, A., & Fuller, M. (2010) Collaborative Strategic Management: Strategy Formulation and Implementation by Multi-Organizational Cross-Sector Social Partnerships. Journal of Business Ethics, 94(Supplement 1): 85-101. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-011-0781-5 (View pre-publication version)