Third characteristic: it depends on great relationships

You're not the boss of me!

Power is useless because collaborating is a choice.

Anyone can pull out at any moment. 

So holding it together during tough times depends on good relationships rather than hierarchy, money or other forms of power.

Aspects of great relationships

Good working relationships help people to be patient, make misunderstandings less likely and disagreements easier to resolve.  

Collaborators will be taking a leap of faith at the start: they need to see that others are matching their faith with commitment of their own. 

Everyone’s contributions need to be acknowledged and celebrated: it’s easy to damage relationships if this isn’t done and people don’t feel appreciated. 

Counter-cultural

But if this way of working is counter-cultural for some organisations, they may need help realising this and learning new behaviours.  In particular it’s useful if there are people who can model new behaviours which build relationships rather than relying on personal power, money or hierarchy.

Six characteristics

This is the third in a series of six characteristics of collaborative working. The series began with it isn't easy, followed by decisions are shared. Still to come are

  • it requires high-quality internal working too;
  • it’s a marathon not a sprint;
  • success may look different from what you expected.

These characteristics complement other tips about collaboration that you can find in Working Collaboratively: a practical guide to achieving more, published by as part of the DoShorts series in 2013. The characteristics were developed as part of capacity building for the Environment Agency with InterAct Networks.