Collaboration Toolkit

Working toward solutions for entrenched societal problems can be daunting. Individuals who want to make a difference often find it difficult to know where to start or what to do. Common hindrances to effective change efforts include lack of direction, inadequate planning, and working in siloed environments.

Collective Impact is a proven collaboration framework used to tackle complex social problems. The Collective Impact framework suggests five key components: common agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support. These are concrete elements that you can implement and monitor in your collaborative work.

“Behind the scenes” of Collective Impact are ten elements that can be incorporated into everyday work to enhance collaboration. These ten aspects appear easy to incorporate. However, we often overlook them in favor of checklist-type approaches to working together. When critically thinking and intentionally looking at your work, determine how and why the ten elements can be beneficial to achieving effective collaborative relationships and collective impact.

This toolkit offers descriptions of each of the ten elements along with tools and resources. The toolkit is designed to help facilitate thinking in terms of collective impact and to introduce new terms.


Hope is the belief that change can occur.

It is a mindset that can make a huge impact when engaging in collaborative work. When you have high hope, you not only believe that the future can be different, but that you can do something about it. Hope can inspire people to work together for a renewed interest and purpose toward a common goal.

Things to Remember About Hope…

  • Leadership style can serve as an instrument for instilling hope by providing a vision that intrinsically motivates others.
  • High-hope collaborators can think creatively about producing limitless pathways, getting others excited, and serving as an inspiration even in the face of fear, adversity, and risk.
  • Hope is contagious. You can provide a sense of confidence that change really is possible on a broad scale.
  • Bright spots can be a center of focus when attempting to instill and encourage hope.


  • Book: Making Hope Happen (Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D.)
    Making Hope Happen gives an easy to read overview of the Hope research and offers strategies for increasing hope in life and work.
  • The Community Tool Box
    • Focusing on community assets which can provide possibilities that instill hope (Chapter 3)
    • Providing a sense of hope to others through servant or transformational leadership (Chapter 13)
    • Highlighting positive community-level indicators showing the positive outcomes of initiatives, which may secure funding, creating a sense of hope (Chapter 38)
  • Mapping Out Hope
    The Hopemap is a simple but practical tool that helps walk you through the process of setting goals, planning for challenges, and brainstorming alternative pathways to success.


High-hope organizations create a level playing field, open communication, and respect for all employees.

  • Adams III, V. H., Snyder, C. R., Rand, K. L., King, E. A., Sigmon, D. R., Pulvers, K. M. (2003). Hope in the Workplace. In R. A. Giacalone & C. L. Jurkiewicz (Eds.), Handbook of Workplace Spirituality and Organizational Performance (pp. 367-371). Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe. Retrieved from: hope

There are three main aspects of hope: goals, pathways, and agency. Hope enables a person to become goal-directed and provides the ability to continue to move forward despite roadblocks that get in the way of progress.

  • Snyder, C. R., Rand, K. L., Sigmon, D. R. (2002). Hope Theory: A Member of the Positive Psychology Family. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 257-276). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from: hope

Impact of hope in the workplace: higher levels of hope have a stronger correlation with job satisfaction, work happiness, and organizational commitment.

  • Youssef, C.M., Luthans, F. (2007). Positive organizational behavior in the workplace. Journal of Management, 33 (5), 774-800.  Retrieved from: Hope

Mindset is the frame of reference that you bring to the table

The mindset of group members and that a group establishes for itself can serve as a catalyst – or a barrier – to change. Mindset enables individuals and the group to commit to taking risks and failing forward to accomplish goals.

Things to remember about mindset:

  • A Growth Mindset allows you to learn from mistakes, look at challenges as new opportunities, and find inspiration from others.
  • A Fixed Mindset serves as a roadblock to accomplishing goals by causing you to avoid challenges, ignore constructive feedback, and feel threatened by the success of others.


Mindset Diagram (Carol Dweck)
Dweck’s Mindset diagram provides an overview of the differences between fixed and growth mindsets in dealing with challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism, and the success of others.

Book: Switch (Chip Heath & Dan Heath)
Switch provides an easy framework for helping to shift thinking and bring about change by understanding typical rational and emotional responses.

Presentation from the Department of Commerce on Building the Collaboration Mindset
A presentation outlining a collaborative framework and the mindset needed to engage in collaborative work successfully.

The Community Toolbox
The CTB addresses mindset in collaboration by:

  • Analyzing community problems and getting into the right mindset to establish what the problem is and how to go about resolving it (Chapter 3)
  • Building an effective team through the right mindset (Chapter 13)
  • Thinking critically which can help align mindset (Chapter 17)
  • Changing policies can help change mindset (Chapter 25)


Challenging your partners to stack apples is a simple way to start a discussion about what is possible.

Numbers 1-60
Practicing working together is a great way to recognize that it often takes many tries to get it right and that the more we work together, the better we get at it.


Three essential mindset changes in the implementation of collective impact are explored.

  • Kania, J., Hanleybrown, F., Juster, J. (2014). Essential mindset shifts for collective impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Retrieved from: Mindset

Silo thinking diminishes opportunities to work together and share resources. To combat this, the system needs to look through a new lens toward the future.

  • MacLeod, H., Davidson, J. (2013). Fragmentation vs. collaboration. Ghost Busting Series. Retrieved from: Mindset

Authenticity: Being transparent and vulnerable with partners impacts client outcomes

Authenticity can serve to break barriers by showing others around you that you genuinely care and are coming from a good place. Goals and intentions that are presented authentically inspire others to be authentic and, more importantly, to engage in meaningful work together.

Things to remember about authenticity:

  • Authenticity among collaborative partners has been shown to be a significant predictor of client outcomes.

    Your style of engaging with others can set the stage for open or closed communication, which may encourage or discourage active, expressive communication.

    Active listening can serve as a way to demonstrate authenticity by showing that you are not too busy and that you are genuinely invested.


TEDxTalk (BrenéBrown): Found here

  • Brené Brown’s talk on vulnerability and shame is a go-to resource for understanding these topics and how to apply it in our lives.

The Community Toolbox: Found here
The CTB addresses authenticity in collaboration by:

  • Conducting public forums and listening sessions, allowing for voices to be heard and authenticity of community members (Chapter 3, Section 3)
  • Communicating and being authentic and honest helps to deal with crises (Chapter 6)
  • Contacting participants face-to-face due to a more authentic interaction (Chapter 7)
  • Involving people through active listening and being sincerely interested (Chapter 7)
  • Addressing qualities of a successful leader including being  authentic so people know they are cared for (Chapter 14)


Key characteristics of effective managers include qualities such as honesty, integrity, credibility, being fair-minded, straightforward, and dependable. The authentic self of a leader is looked at and how this can contribute to encouraging others to share in a vision.

  • Duignan, P., Bhindi, N. (1997). Authenticity in leadership: An emerging perspective. Journal of Educational Administration, 35 (3), 195-209. Retrieved from: Authenticity
Rules of Engagement

Rules of Engagement: Agreed upon ways to working together – either state or unstated

Rules guide how interactions should occur, how to handle conflict, and when to call it quits.

Things to remember about rules of engagement…

  • Identifying rules of engagement helps to establish parameters that generally go unspoken for how partners will work together. Having clarity about these rules increases authenticity and buy-in.
  • Rules of engagement are not your mission or vision statement – these are the often unstated expectations or guard rails that the group operates within.


The Community Toolbox: Found here
The CTB addresses informal relationships in collaboration by:

  • Engaging the community by first taking the time to understand the community through public forums, focus groups, needs assessment, and interviews (Chapter 3)
  • Engaging others by connecting with other groups, enlisting respected community members, and creating activities (Chapter 4)
  • Engaging volunteers and partners in strategic planning (Chapter 11)
  • Engaging opponents and allies to find common ground and build upon strengths (Chapter 30)
  • Engaging stakeholders in program evaluation (Chapter 36)

TEDxTalk (Jackie Counts): Found here

  • Dr. Counts gives an overview of how her organization developed Rules of Engagement.


Overview of collective impact and the role that rules of engagement have in the framework.

  • Kania, J., Kramer, M. (2011). Collective impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 35-66.  

Conflict: Productive conflict is sometimes the most effective way of accomplishing collaborative work

Although conflict is often seen as something that negatively impacts a group, it can serve as a way to be real, be authentic, and ultimately foster individual and group growth.

Things to remember about conflict…

  • Your beliefs on conflict and how you address it can intentionally or unintentionally impact collaborative work.
  • Avoiding conflict can become the elephant in the room that prevents authentic, meaningful, and effective Collective Impact.
  • Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable allows you to embrace tension and be more open to others.


The Community Toolbox: Found here
The CTB addresses conflict in collaboration by:

  • Social action can be conflictual but essential to change (Chapter 5)
  • Handling crises in communication and how to navigate issues with miscommunication (Chapter 6)
  • Hiring a consultant to facilitate conflict and problem solving (Chapter 12)
  • Recognizing  the challenges of leadership and how to handle a crises situation or internal conflict (Chapter 13)
  • Resolving conflict through productive group discussion can involve (Chapter 16)
  • Resolving conflict through conflict resolution training (Chapter 20)
  • Transforming conflict in diverse communities through resolving and building capacity (Chapter 27)
  • Responding to attacks that are meant to intimidate your group. (Chapter 35)

Collective Impact Forum: Found here

  • Resources relating to conflict in the Collective Impact Forum: Found here


Fiver Scheme: Found here

  • An activity that focuses on allowing participants to view conflict as a process in which goals are reestablished to focus on the ultimate goal at hand.

Sorting Mat: Found here

  • An activity that allows participants to view conflict in an alternative manner and that conflict is necessary for growth and collaboration.

Intentionality: Being deliberate or purposeful and doing what it takes to work together

It is surprising how often we just go through the motions. Taking the time to be aware and intentional can bring together an atmosphere that embraces change and increases collaboration.

Things to remember about intentionality…

  • Purposeful work is noticed by others and attracts others to want to connect.
  • When interacting with partners, the intentionality of your actions and thinking is key to successful collaboration.

    Intentional practice might mean doing things differently – sometimes switching things up means getting different results.


The Community Toolbox: Found here
The CTB addresses intentionality in collaboration by:

  • Uncovering disparities resulting through intentional efforts (Chapter 3, section 22)
  • Being intentional about the hiring process (Chapter 10)
  • Laying out a plan for advocacy through clarifying goals (Chapter 30)
  • Developing a plan for financial sustainability through establishing committees and applying for grants (Chapter 42)


Tools used to measure collaboration is an easy and useful way to understand your partnerships and set targets for improving your collaborative work. Tools you might consider include:

  • Levels of Collaboration Scale: Found here
      – Developed to assess collaboration among grant partners.
  • Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory: Found here
      – A 40-item tool using 20-research tested factors to understand strengths and opportunities of collaborative groups.
  • PARTNER tool: Found here
      – An online tool designed to assess collaboration across systems and create social network maps of partner relationships.

Likeability is more than being nice

Likeability is the attitude and approach you bring to collaborative work. Your likeability factor has a strong influence on whether others approach or avoid you, work with you, or steer clear.

Things to remember about likability…

  • Components of likeability, such as honesty, simplicity, and basic humanity, are fundamental to building trust and creating meaningful, effective connections.
  • Being aware of how collaboration can stem from the appearance of likeability can allow for greater insight and collaborative work to occur.


Book: Likeonomics (Rohit Bhargava)

  • Likeonomics suggests a five-part framework of TRUST (Truth, Relevance, Unselfishness, Simplicity, and Timing) that promotes positive relationships and connections between people. 

Book: The Likeability Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life’s Dreams (Tim Sanders)

  • The Likeability Factor suggests that likeability helps people to succeed in relationships and make connections in the workplace found here

The Community Toolbox: Found here

  • Being likeable can help lead a community dialogue (Chapter 3)
  • Being likeable can improve the interview process and with others getting to know you (Chapter 10)


The Likeability Factor: An L-Factor Self Assessment: (Tim Sanders): Found here

  • This assessment, developed by Tim Sanders, measures your L-Factor or the negative and positive feelings you evoke in others that are related to your likeability.


Our likeability can increase the odds of us forming relationships with others despite us being primarily unaware of what makes us likeable. Covin argues that the most likeable qualities based on his research are sincerity, honesty, and the capacity for understanding, loyalty, and trustworthiness.

  • Covin, R. (2011, July 19). What makes a person likeable? The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: Likeability

Evidence has shown that people prefer to work with the likeable leader rather than the stereotypical aggressive leader. Various research and articles are referenced.

  • Williams, R. (2014, January 10). Why leaders need to be likeable rather than dominating. Psychology Today

Adaptability: Being flexible and recognizing climate and culture

Being adaptable is essential in the kind of complex, dynamic work that we do. Your ability to adapt when unforeseen problems occur makes a big difference in your likelihood of success. Getting comfortable with change is key to Collective Impact.

Things to remember about adaptability…

  • Being adaptable means being ready for change. Adaptability means being open to exploring new possibilities and adjusting to partners, the environment, and the changing needs of the community.
  • Adaptability means having a growth mindset – viewing systematic changes as an opportunity for growth and continued creativity.


Collective Impact Forum: Found here

A forum designed to provide resources to learn about and implement collective impact in the workplace.

Tackling Complex Social Problems through Collective Impact.
The video explains collective impact and makes inferences to the importance of how adaptable organizations can work together to move towards collective impact.

Evaluating a collective impact approach
requires the flexibility or adaptability of the approach itself.


Switch Framework (Chip Heath & Dan Heath): Found here

  • A framework that suggests in order for change to occur people need to adapt to the environment around them.


An overview of why and how successful collaboration works. Adaptability of the collaborative group is essential to sustainment as changes need to occur with the environment.

  • Mattessich, P., Monsey, B. (1992) Collaboration: What makes it work. A review of research literature on factors influencing successful collaboration. Saint Paul, MN, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. (pg.16, 28). Retrieved from: Adaptability

Trust: The assurance that people can depend on one another

In an environment where conflict does and will occur, trust enables the relationship to continue to develop. Trust is the foundation for any relationship to build upon to overcome bumps along the road and for continued collaboration to occur. 

Things to remember about trust…

  • Being someone who can be trusted is a commitment to a way of living and interacting with others.
  • Trust is complex and includes different dimensions, such as openness, discretion, fairness, integrity, and loyalty.
  • Trusting one another is the foundation for relationships to develop to work together.


Book: Likeonomics (Rohit Bhargava)

  • Likeonomics suggests a five-part framework of TRUST (Truth, Relevance, Unselfishness, Simplicity, and Timing) that promotes positive relationships and connections between people.

The Community Toolbox: Found here
The CTB addresses trust in collaboration by:

  • Building trust in community development takes time (Chapter 5, Section 2)
  • Building trust through ethical leadership (Chapter 13)
  • Trusting leaders who understand people’s needs (Chapter 14)
  • Building relationships with people from different cultures takes trust (Chapter 27)


Article: Guidelines for Measuring Trust in Organizations (Katie Delahaye Paine): Found here

  • The importance of trust in an organization is discussed, along with guidelines and tools to measure trust.


Trust is cited as a bridge to building cultural differences and is essential for supporting a climate in which true relationships can develop.

  • Phillips, S.D. (2001) From charity to clarity: Reinventing federal government voluntary sector relationships. The Philanthropist, 16 (4), 240-262. Retrieved from: Trust

Collaboration advantages are discussed to explain working partnerships. To nurture collaboration and create these advantages, trust must be incorporated. Trust is examined and its validity to inform practice is reported.

  • Vangen, S., Huxham, C. (2003) Nurturing collaborative relations: Building trust in interorganizational collaboration. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 39 (1), 531. Retrieved from: Trust

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses’ protocol for a healthy work environment highlights the importance the role relationships play in a collaborative work environment and the role trust has on building effective relationships. The article introduces a research-based model of trust called Transactional Trust that lays the foundation for collaboration and team relationships.

  • Reina, M., Reina, D., Rushton, C. (2007). Trust: The foundation for team collaboration and healthy work environments. AACN Advanced Critical Care, 18 (2),103-108. 
Informal Relationships

Informal Relationships: Relationships are the only significant predictor of collaboration

We often take relationships for granted, but relationships are the key to Collective Impact. Devote time to engage in conversation before or after a meeting with new and existing partners. This requires minimal energy, time, and investment to initiate, but the return on investment is huge.

Things to remember about informal relationships…

  • A little effort goes a long way when taking a few minutes out of your day to introduce yourself to a new contact or express care to an existing partner.
  • The benefit of building relationships is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts– true connections with others lead to solutions that you never imagined were possible.


Book: Likeonomics (Rohit Bhargava)

  • Likeonomics suggests a five-part framework of TRUST (Truth, Relevance, Unselfishness, Simplicity, and Timing) that promotes positive relationships and connections between people.

The Community Toolbox: Found here
The CTB addresses informal relationships in collaboration by:

  • Leading a community dialogue on building a healthy community (Chapter 3)
  • Meeting others, including influential people in the community (Chapter 7) 
  • Building informal relationships through collaborative leadership (Chapter 13)
  • Forming and sustaining relationships (Chapter 14)
  • Multisector collaboration stemming from informal relationships (Chapter 24)


Huddles: Found here

  • Huddles are short, informal gatherings that encourage sharing and activities that promote informal relationships.

Developmental Relationships: Found here

  • A framework developed by The Search Institute that describes the broader understanding of relationships and 20 actions that help develop relationships over time.


Overview of one framework that suggests five key elements form the basis for collaboration: governance, administration, autonomy, mutuality, and trust. The importance of relationships and how they contribute to collaboration are discussed throughout the five key elements.

  • Thomson, A.M., Perry, J., Miller, T. (2007). Conceptualizing and measuring collaboration. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 19 (1),25-36. Retrieved from: Informal Relationships

Informal relationships and the effect they have on employees in the workplace are discussed. Informal social relations may offer significant benefits, including increased communication, trust, respect, cooperation, growth, development, and energy that, in turn, influence work attitudes and behaviors.

  • Morrison, R. (2004) Informal relationships in the workplace: Associations with job satisfaction, organisational commitment and turnover intentions. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 33 (3), 114-128. Retrieved from: Informal Relationships

A look at the benefits of informal relationships as well as the myths. Informal relationships have been known as the glue that holds together process-improvement initiatives and alliances, as well as be contributors to new product development and job satisfaction.

  • Cross, R., Nohria, N., Parker, A. (2002, April 15). Six myths about informal networks and how to overcome them. Retrieved from: Informal Relationships

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