Interagency collaboration: Part A. What is it, what does it look like, when is it needed and what supports it?

Interagency collaboration: Part A. What is it, what does it look like, when is it needed and what supports it?

Myfanwy McDonald and Kate Rosier

AFRC Briefing No. 21 — October 2011

Key messages

Collaboration is defined as a: "means of producing something joined and new, from the interactions of people or organisations, their knowledge and resources" (ARACY, 2009). Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, collaboration is distinct from cooperation and coordination

Collaboration is a high intensity, high commitment relationship that requires new ways of thinking, behaving and operating. For this reason, collaboration can be challenging for participants.

Collaborations are seen as most effective and appropriate in two circumstances. Firstly, to address intractable, "cross-over" problems between agencies such as homelessness and poverty. Secondly, to address the needs of vulnerable and at-risk families who have multiple and complex problems.

Involving parents and children in interagency collaborations can benefit them through, for example, increased self-confidence. They can also benefit the effectiveness of the collaboration as a whole, for example, by bringing "local knowledge" to the table.

Employing a central agency to facilitate interagency collaborations can be effective at increasing levels of collaboration between agencies. However, changes in service system coordination are unlikely to bring about improved client outcomes unless they lead to change in professional–client interactions.

Briefing Paper 21 comprises two papers that focus attention upon how interagency collaborations benefit children and families.1 Part A looks at what collaboration is, the benefits and risks of involving families in collaborations, when interagency collaborations are likely to be most effective and explores how they can be supported through specific models of governance. Part B investigates the evidence regarding the relationship between collaboration and improved outcomes for children and families.

Terminology

In this paper collaboration is defined as a: “means of producing something joined and new, from the interactions of people or organisations, their knowledge and resources” (ARACY, 2009). This paper focuses upon service level collaboration (rather than policy or research collaboration) amongst agencies (rather than intra-agency and interpersonal collaboration).

Footnote

1 Information on practical strategies to establishing interagency collaboration can be found on the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) website <www.aracy.org.au>

Authors and Acknowledgements

At the time of writing Myfanwy McDonald was the Coordinator of the Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia.

Kate Rosier is a Research Officer in the Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia

Special thanks for Jennifer Pidgeon (ARACY), Sharnee Moore and Elly Robinson for ideas, comments and suggestions.

Publication details

AFRC Briefing
No. 21
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, October 2011.
10 pp.
ISSN: 
1834-2434
ISBN: 
978-1-921414-77-0

Publication meta

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