Collaboration Toolkit

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Define Priority Outcomes and Set Annual Goals

Successful collaboratives commit to common goals and prioritize specific actions. Think of your effort in three phases:

Your collaborative members are essentially “volunteers” contributing time in addition to their 9:00-5:00 work requirements. Developing clear goals before implementing projects can help your group be more efficient over time.

Beware of a potential pitfall of collaboration

Collaboration can be an effective process to take action and solve problems, but if a group isn’t careful to set actionable goals and monitor progress, collaboration can become a goal unto itself, leading to member disinvestment.

How to Set Goals and Priorities as Your Collaborative Advances

  • Consider developing an action plan. Think of this as a working document that can highlight short- and long-term actions and opportunities.
  • Tie regular meeting objectives to your goals.
    • On each member meeting agenda, list the collaborative’s current goals, meeting objectives and topics. This will help the meeting planner, moderator, and participants link each meeting to overarching goals.
    • Click here for an example from the National Source Water Collaborative. Add time on your meeting agendas to review the goals you’ve accomplished and measure your success. This activity can help the group set measurable goals for the future.
  • Devote a planning meeting to reviewing success to date and outlining how you’ve met original goals. After assessing your progress, discuss how your group should revise its original goals or add new goals. Click here for a template to guide this activity.
  • If you prefer to collect this information after an in-person meeting, send an annual questionnaire. has free online survey templates. If you only have a few questions, those can be sent in an email or by attaching a Word document.

When to Revisit Goals and Priorities?

In the forming stage, you outlined the mission and key goals of your collaborative. As your collaborative advances, agree on key times to revisit your priorities. Two common options include:

  • Annually: Schedule an annual planning meeting to review status of projects, recent achievements, how the group is best positioned to achieve success (i.e., “What are we doing well?”), and upcoming opportunities. Consider what efforts should be continued into the new year and if members can dedicate time to take on additional actions.
  • When a Project is Completed: Some collaboratives are focused on a small set of key activities, and choose to reassess their group’s overarching goals when a key project is completed. This allows time to determine if all project goals have been met, and if not, additional activities can be identified in order to best reach the project goals. If all goals have been met, the group can move on to address other opportunities.

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