While the vision of a collaborative may be very compelling, every day realities may pose considerable challenges and tensions. Before starting or joining a collaborative, it is important to have a clear understanding of the risks, challenges and expectations that are involved. Each organization has to assess the level of risk the collaborative entails to the organization, in terms of finances, reputation, time, energy and other “lost” opportunities, and decide if it is acceptable. You will want to have a clear understanding of the conditions for withdrawing from the collaborative, and be prepared to absorb any failures. What sounds good in theory may not work as well in practice, especially working within community settings where there are many variables beyond your control.

Probably the biggest challenge in developing and managing a successful collaborative is finding the time and energy to nurture the positive relationships required to function effectively, particularly in times of rapid change or increased pressure on resources. It is often commented that working collaboratively takes longer and is more complex, difficult and sometimes frustrating, but we may also develop superior solutions and have a greater impact.

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