Decision Support Tool Overview

1. Introduction and Purpose

Collaborations and other forms of inter-agency working are important mechanisms for addressing complex social problems and creating new and innovative service delivery approaches. Collaboration is not a business as usual approach: it demands/requires considerable investments of time, resources and commitment, as well as an appetite for large scale change and risk, including risk of failure.

Yet, despite these restrictions collaboration is often presented as the ‘one best way’ or the ‘holy grail’ for integration/working together (Keast et al, 2003, 2997; 2011; Bryson, Crosby and Middleton, 2006; O’Flynn, 2009; 2011), ignoring the opportunities offered by a wider array of integration approaches.

A growing body of research and practice has illustrated that success in collaboration is the result of highly strategic and deliberate decision-making and action, clustered around – clarity of purpose (matching model to purpose), partner composition and relational strengths, the contribution and value add, and new or expanded management and leadership capabilities/competencies (and context). As such this tool is designed to offer alternative models of networking, in order to allow organisations to direct their efforts according to their immediate capabilities and purpose.

This collaboration decision support tool has been designed as a resource to aid organisations considering entering into or forming collaborations to (a) help to determine if collaboration is the most appropriate model,  (b) assess current capacity and capability to undertake collaborative action, and (c) offer strategies and resources with which to go forward. It is informed by a strong evidence base drawn from research and practice.

Using the decision support tool will help participating organisations to: 

  • develop a clearer understanding of the range of purposes of collaborations  
  • reflect on the partnerships they have established  
  • focus on ways to strengthen new and existing partnerships by engaging in discussion about issues and ways forward


Robyn Keast
Dan Chamberlain
Southern Cross University, 2014