New Tools for Collaboration and Network Building

​​In today’s world, with complex problems and no easy solutions, collaboration and network building are absolutely essential. But bringing many ideas, experiences, opinions and agendas together can be like herding cats or nailing Jell-O to a wall. It’s a complicated undertaking, to say the least, but three new tools from the Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) online resource center (available for free download) can help clarify the processes, outcomes and next steps to help your organization get the most from its collaborations and networks.

1. Assess Your Collaboration

How do you know if a collaboration will work, or if it is working while you are in the middle of it, or how well it worked once it’s done? ACS’ Assess Your Collaboration tool will help you understand what makes your collaboration successful in the planning stages, how to continually improve or course-correct during implementation, and how to incorporate lessons learned to improve collaboration down the road. You can assess your collaboration at any time — create a baseline at the beginning, find areas where you can adjust and improve during implementation, or reflect on a collaboration after the fact to help identify next steps and communicate your achievements to others.

Effective collaborations are built from six key components:

  • Clear purpose and goals
  • Leadership and staff capacity
  • Partners with clear expectations
  • Clear communication
  • An understanding of the surrounding environment, and
  • Indicators that show progress

The Assess Your Collaboration tool includes 30 different measures and is designed to be used by an individual leader, or as a group exercise to spark conversation, and formulate plans for improvement. In group situations, ACS recommends using a neutral facilitator to guide your group. When you are finished, you will have a concrete picture of where your collaboration’s strengths and opportunities for improvement, as well as a roadmap to move forward in the most effective way possible.

2. Map Your Networks

Networks are vital to tackling complex issues, but how do you keep track of who is a close ally, who’s work is aligned with yours, and who needs to be kept abreast of your progress? Use ACS’ Network Mapping Tool to plan out your outreach strategy and keep tabs on the multiple moving parts that are part of every network.

With this tool, you will identify and build four concentric circles of your network:

The exercises in the Network Mapping Tool begin with questions to help you gain clarity about the issue(s) you wish to address and how you wish to address them (An advocacy effort? A communication campaign? Something else?). Next, you will brainstorm every possible organization or community leader who should appear somewhere in your network. And finally, you will prioritize potential network members according to their roles (core, primary, secondary or tertiary).

Once you fully understand the breadth, depth and power of your network ­– and how you’ll leverage that power — you will be able to attract new partners with confidence, be more strategic in your advocacy and communication efforts, and ultimately reach your goals.

3. Use ACS’ Collaboration Glossary as a supplemental document to help you cut through language barriers and jargon. For example, what is the difference between a coalition, an alliance, or a network? What is the appropriate role for a stakeholder versus a partner? This document will help everyone involved in collaborative activities get on the same page.

Questions about how to super charge your collaboration? Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC is the first step in helping you get there. Contact us here.

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