The Intersector Toolkit: Cross-Sector Collaboration

This toolkit - commissioned by The Intersector Project - provides practical knowledge for practitioners from government, business, and non-profit sectors to diagnose, design, implement, and assess cross-sector collaborations.

STAGES OF INTERSECTOR COLLABORATION

DIAGNOSIS:

Can intersector collaboration help to solve our problem?

There is no litmus test to determine whether an intersector approach is an appropriate solution. Whether a cross-sector collaboration is mandated or voluntarily pursued, leaders must first consider the reason(s) a single sector has been unable to solve the problem and determine whether other sectors have an interest or a stake in developing a solution. Understanding the limits of one sector’s processes, expertise, and resources can help identify what other sectors can contribute and may shed light on the corporate and public policies that influence the community context in which the collaboration will operate. Potential partners can be identified based on their level of influence on the issue and their proximity to key stakeholders and institutions. Initial engagements among partners should emphasize openness to discuss apprehensions about working across sectors and reaching consensus on the collaboration’s goals and outcomes.

DESIGN:

How do we lay the foundation to operationalize our common intersector vision?

Partners will bring a wealth of sector-specific knowledge and experience to the collaboration and should equally contribute to developing a plan that outlines the collection of activities they will implement to meet their goals. By reaching consensus on the nature of the issue the collaboration will aim to solve and how success will be determined, partners can establish a roadmap to guide them as they put their plan into action. Once partners have a clear understanding of the tasks that need to be completed to reach their goals, individual responsibilities can be assigned based on sector-specific expertise and access to resources, and a project management structure can be put in place to streamline implementation and ensure accountability.

IMPLEMENTATION:

How does our intersector collaboration achieve its goals?

There should be a collective recognition among partners of the need for each sector’s abilities and resources during the implementation of an intersector collaboration. When each sector’s expertise is valued, partners are more likely to remain engaged and motivated to sustain progress. Implementing an intersector collaboration is a challenging process. It may require a swift change of gears depending on the feedback partners gather throughout the implementation process and creative solutions to issues of capacity and resources that may arise. Establishing clear, achievable interim goals demonstrates to all participants that progress is possible. Celebrating even small successes can promote the vitality of this process. Partners may also consider engaging a sponsor or a champion to attract resources and provide greater access to networks of key stakeholders.

ASSESSMENT

What lessons did we learn from our intersector collaboration?

Ongoing evaluation from the early stages of the collaboration can help partners understand successes and setbacks in real time and point to possible improvements the collaboration can make moving forward. Depending upon the project design, partners have a variety of methodologies from which to choose to best capture their efforts and impact. Evaluation is important in part because it serves to advise other practitioners who might want to pursue a similar partnership structure or tackle a similar issue. Communicating the lessons learned and best practices implemented can inform future projects, allowing others to iterate the successes the collaboration experienced and avoid similar pitfalls.