A Positive Review of “Collaboration Handbook”

Collaboration Handbook - coverCollaboration Handbook – coverSolid advice on how to make collaboration work between community organizations.

Collaboration Handbook: Creating, Sustaining, and Enjoying the Journey

Co-Authors: Michael Winer, Karen Ray
Publisher: Fieldstone Alliance
ISBN: 978-0-940069-03-9

This text definitely earns its Handbook title. It is a complete 178 page manual on how to initiate, grow and support a successful collaboration between not-for-profits, community groups and institutions.

It starts with detailed story of a fictional “Tri-County Collaboration for Homeless Services” that goes through every stage of development. This story is then referenced through out the second part of the book which gives detailed insight and advice on the specific tasks, stages and milestones throughout the life of a successful collaboration. The manual concludes with annotated resources and 30 pages of simple template forms and worksheets that cover everything from meeting agendas and decision-making protocols to joint agreements, promotional plans and guides to systems change.

The book has excellent formatting with lots of easily digested and referenced lists, information boxes and sub-headings. The many illustrative examples help provide real world context and the side bar quotes are a nice spice that help keep the text light. The perspective and language is from the front lines of community organizations in the USA, although generally applicable to collaboration between any type of organizations in any location.

The target audience is definitely real world organization leaders and consultants who aim to coordinate effective teamwork between multiple organizations either for funding reasons or out of their own initiative. At times the language and metaphors may cause a raised eyebrow or two from a hard nosed executive director, but such flowery bits are brief and easily overshadowed by concrete tasks and experienced insight.

Michael Winer and Karen Ray did a great service in authoring this handbook back in 1994. It would be interesting to see what revisions would be made in a second addition that could take into account the web technologies and techniques that are now part of our everyday work. Until then this handbook is still a very useful resource for the good people who want to do good work together.

A Review of “Collaboration: What Makes it Work” 2nd Edition

Understand the 20 factors influencing the success of collaboration between community organizations.

Collaboration: What Makes It Work, 2nd Ed.
Co-Authors: Paul W. Mattessich, Marta Murray-Close, Barbara R. Monsey
Publisher: Fieldstone Alliance
ISBN: 978-0-940069-32-9

The heart of this 75 page report are two chapters that describes the twenty factors that have repeatedly proven to have influence on the potential success of a collaboration between multiple organizations, defined as “The Wilder Collaboration Factors”. Outside of these twenty pages the content is mostly contextual information and academic details, save the Factors Inventory survey (PDF) which could be useful for diagnosing potential strengths and challenges in a collaboration.

This text was first published in 1992 and has ever since been referenced by many academics and practitioners in the field of organizational collaboration. The research base comes from 22 selected studies of collaboration between community groups, not-for-profits, and state institutions mostly, if not exclusively, in the USA and Britain.

If you are an academic working in this field than this should definitely be in your collection and will probably find its way in to many of your bibliographies. If you are an organization leader or consultant working to conduct effective collaborations than you may find the detailed descriptions of the 20 factors useful, but if your budget is limited you would be better served with the “Collaboration Handbook” (see my review) which includes a one page summary of the 20 Success Factors along with 170 other pages of insight, instructions, advice and templates.

Attachment Size
Wilder_Collaboration_Factors_Inventory.pdf 19.06 KB

A Positive Review of “The Community Planning Handbook”

Community Planning Handbook coverAn excellent resource for conducting citizen consultation and engagement into neighbourhood development.

The Community Planning Handbook:
How people can shape their cities, town and villages in any part of the world.
by Nick Wates.
Published by Earthscan Publications Limited, 2000.

This book is the A-Z of community lead local planning. It includes 200 pages of concise and clearly explained principles, methods, example scenarios, forms, check lists, a glossary, contacts and other incredibly useful how-to resources. This manual is very useful for urban planning consultants, progressive municipal authorities and communities leaders that want to ensure the voice of the people who will be affected by local construction are part of the decision making process. Nick Wates writes from a perspective of real world experience with lots of practical tips for situations that vary from ideal community owned projects to last minute public consultation in a traditional city planing process.

This manual is designed to be easily searched for ideas and practical direction in planning and organizing events, managing processes and establishing organizations to involve and empower citizens to give informed direction to the designs and implementation of changes to the architecture in their communities. The text is written from a UK perspective although there is considerable effort made to include photos and context from other nations, especially from rural villages in places like China, India, Fiji, Kenya and the Philippines. Jeremy Brook’s graphical design is very user friendly with hundreds of illustrative photos, diagrams, time lines and information boxes.

Although “The Community Planning Handbook” is written within a limited scope of physical planning and design for villages, towns and cities, many of the principles, methods and suggestions are still applicable to other situations of participatory planning, such as public policy and organizational change. If you want to help manage organization and community efforts that are bottom-up, buy this book and keep it on your desk.

A Review of “The Deliberative Democracy Handbook”

An excellent collection of case studies of public deliberation in the aim of influencing government decision-making.

The Deliberative Democracy Handbook:
Strategies for Effective Civic Engagement in the Twenty-First Century

John Gastil (Editor), Peter Levine (Editor)
ISBN: 978-0-7879-7661-3

John Gastil and Peter Levine have done important service for the academics and practitioners in the field of public participation in government decision-making. This 300 page text book provides 19 chapters of research into diverse contemporary demonstrations of deliberative democracy mostly within the U.S.A. but also some in-depth reviews of important European, Australian and Brazilian systems. An excellent variety of models are discussed including all levels of government decision-making from city planing to national policies. The research is presented by diverse authors with first hand experience. The writing is a good balance of academic rigour and perspective as well as practitioner friendly explanations and observations.

The only problem with this text is the use of “handbook” in the title. While the clearly written case studies are insightful for practitioners and the various practical suggestions found through out book could help inform a processes plan, they do not constitute the definition of handbook, which is supposed to be an easily referenced manual for implementing a system. For a real handbook in deliberative democracy try “The Community Planning Handbook” by Nick Wates which clearly written and structured to guide people in the practical implementation of community deliberation to direct local decision-making. You may also be interested in handbooks for specific participatory democracy systems such as the classic “Preferred Futuring”, the popular “Open Space Technology”, the proven “Consensus Conference” or the new and ultra-simple “Advanced Dotmocracy”.

A Critical Review of “The Change Handbook” (first edition)

A good introduction to the field of participatory change implementation and an overview of known methods, but not enough detail to actually implement anything.

The change handbook: Group methods for shaping the future
Editor: P Holman , T Devane
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
San Francisco, CA Copyright 1999

The first edition 1999 textbook gives basic descriptions of 18 different methods for getting many people to collaboratively make a plan for system wide change in their organization. The language and examples are written mostly from a Western business management perspective, although they do include references and useful insight for community organizations as well.

“The Change Handbook” begins with a brief discussion of the nature of change and some general points to consider when planning a change process. It continues with 18 chapters each dedicated to a different method, written by the model’s creator or leading practitioners. Models are presented with standardized sections that include: success stories, basic explanations, how to start, roles and responsibilities, impacts on authority, conditions for success, theoretical basis, sustaining results and biographies. It concludes with several synthesized implementation suggestions, interesting predictions for the future, a great list of resources and a pull-out “Comparative Matrix” chart of all the models.

The text provides a birds eye view on the variety of organizational change models, which is is a much higher level of perspective than your typical manual of ‘101 Meeting Facilitation Techniques’. In fact, it does not include any specifics for how to practically structure or facilitate the various meetings called for by each model, or how to address potential problems that are likely to pop-up. The self congratulating format of the success stories lacks the critical and independent perspective of academic case studies. Many of the how-to type sections and advice from experienced consultants are useful for leaders looking to support change, although you will have to sift through many paragraphs of ‘promotional speak’ and repeated advice.

Peggy Holman and Tom Devane do a great job in selecting experienced contributors, but unfortunately it reads more like a catalogue of consultants and their approaches than a practical handbook for practitioners and organization leaders to use in the field. The reader gets a taste for each method, but is never satisfied with enough details of how to fully implement any process. This is not so much a fault of the editors as it is of the reality of trying to survey a field that is filled with consultants each selling their own slightly different magic approach and each wanting you to buy their own books and services.

With names like “Future Search”, “Search Conference” and “Conference Model” it is not easy to clearly identify the differences between models, besides the names of the consultants, their particular focus and their preferred jargon. Across all the methods there is a common process of getting dedicated support from leadership and including representatives from all types of roles and stakeholder groups related to the organization in a series of meetings where they discuss to understand their situation and deliberate to plan for a new common future that generally includes empowering workers and improving communication. Most of the differences between the models seem to be concerning what topics and approaches to address at each meeting. Other differences in applications can likely be attributed to the philosophy, style and skill of the consultant, and the culture and situation of the organization.

As a consultant, manager or board member this book provides you with many useful nuggets of insightful advice and suggestions for innovative approaches to organizational change, but you will probably find the lack of specifics to be frustrating, the redundancy to be tiresome and the stories and academic sections of little value.

For those who need to lead a system wide change in an organization or community you would be better served with a facilitators manual for participatory meetings and an in depth book on one method of choice. If you are not sure what method to choose, the recently released second edition of the “The Change Handbook” with 61 models, might be worth purchasing first.

– Written by Jason Diceman (jd AT cooptools.ca) who is yet another consultant promoting his own magic approach to collective decision-making: Advanced Dotmocracy (www.dotmocracy.org)