Over the past 20 years CHS has supported numerous community collaboratives with a wide range of purposes and structures. Here we outline the basic elements of a community collaborative model.
Purpose. The purpose of a community collaborative is to help the member organizations elevate their community impact beyond what any of them might accomplish by working on their own. The particular purpose is typically chosen by the foundation with input from community stakeholders.
Formation. A collaborative forms when multiple organizations commit to working together for a shared purpose. Foundations can act as catalysts by convening and funding community collaboratives.
Participants. A collaborative can be structured to engage any number of participating organizations, from a few to dozens. Collaboratives work best when each member organization assigns a team of individuals to participate and accomplish the work.
Objectives. The specific objectives are defined in consultation with the collaborative members. Objectives typically involve a mix of aims for organizational capacity building (e.g., program design, team development, performance measurement) and community impact (e.g., reaching specific populations, assuring access to services, improving health indicators).
Timeframe. A collaborative can run from a few months to a few years depending on the purpose, objectives, and commitments of the members. A collaborative can also be structured to operate in phases, with strategic check-ins after each phase.
Activities. Collaborative members typically participate in group learning sessions, webinars, surveys, coaching calls, and an online learning hub. Members are expected to use what they are learning to produce demonstrable improvements. This work is supported with data, tools, technical assistance, and strategy coaching provided throughout the collaborative.
Workflow. In a typical collaborative the members progress through a workflow that involves considering community needs, designing specific improvement strategies, developing organizational capacity, implementing promising practices, sharing innovations, and evaluating impact.
Results. The results of a community collaborative include stronger organizational capacity, better performance, more robust collaboration, and greater community impact. The following section provides more details about the return on investment in a community collaborative.