Collaboration and Merger are Not Synonymous

November 23, 2009 Leave a comment

There is a dangerous and ultimately very confusing trend emerging in our sector. In the wake of the financial meltdown and its impact on funding, foundations and others are proposing organizational mergers and strategic alliances as a solution to the problem. The danger is that they are calling this “collaboration” and giving collaboration a really, really bad name!

For many years at IISC we have been trying to overcome what is often the very bad taste left in people’s mouths after some horrendous experience that they have had in a poorly executed and therefore failed collaboration. In many cases these were marriages forced by foundation funding or coalitions of individual organizations coming together but unable to detach from their own identities and agendas.

And, while in today’s world the barriers to working effectively together are disappearing through technology and web 2.0 tools that now connect people and information, the fundamentals to successful collaboration remain.

In the book: Creating a Culture of Collaboration, IISC contributed a chapter titled, “Collaboration for Social Change” in which we outline the conditions required for launching a successful collaborative change effort and describe their application through a case study of our work in, “Eliminating the Racial Achievement Gap in the Public Schools of Brookline, Massachusetts”.

We have learned from years of practice that the spine of collaboration is the balance of results, process and relationship.


This is a powerful and counter-cultural framework because it asserts that the results achieved without a clear and elegant process that involves stakeholders productively or creates connection and authentic relationships are results that are neither collaborative nor likely to be long-term.

We believe that the core of collaboration is a set of shared values and beliefs that are the ground for creating a shared vision of impact and agreements goals and strategies for collective action. We know that this work is not for the faint of heart, it takes commitment, hard work, artful design and skillful facilitation.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *