Collaboration Toolkit

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Designing a leadership structure for your group

Leadership structure varies depending on the members and purpose of your collaborative. Consider the options below when determining how to organize leadership. (Note: this list is by no means exhaustive, and the options listed may not be mutually exclusive.)

Option 1: Establish a Steering Committee

Steering committee member duties can include:

  • Identifying new opportunities
  • Keeping the activities in an Action Plan on track and aligned with SWC goals
  • Setting meeting dates and developing meeting agendas
  • Leading SWC meetings
  • Developing draft materials such as collaborative priorities and action plans for member consideration
  • Measuring success and reporting progress to collaborative
  • Initial leaders may want to get the collaborative started and then share their responsibility with a core group. For example, a “steering committee” with “chairs” and “co-chairs” may take responsibility for directing the efforts of the collaborative.
  • This structure ensures that several members are highly committed, and there’s a shared investment.

Option 2: Rotate Responsibilities

How a SWC Shared Responsibilities

  • The Nebraska Wellhead Protection Network is a network of individuals, organizations, and agencies in Nebraska that help communities develop and adopt wellhead protection (WHP) programs.
  • Though the Groundwater Foundation serves as facilitator and record-keeper for the WHPN, WHPN members take turns hosting meetings, which occur quarterly.
  • Leading a collaborative can be resource-intensive and time-consuming. For example, if a leader hosts in-person meetings, they must prepare a meeting venue and arrange logistics.
  • Centralizing leadership can be efficient, but groups sometimes prefer to rotate responsibility to prevent claims of leader bias.

Option 3: Consider a third-party leader

How a SWC Used a Consortium Manager

  • In the Hamilton-New Baltimore Consortium, municipalities and industries drawing from the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer formed a Consortium. This group’s purpose is to ensure compliance with local ordinances and educate nearby communities about ground water.
  • Seven members fund a Consortium Manager who coordinates member interests and activities. The Consortium Manager serves as the steward of a facility registration system and Public Education Committee, among other duties.
  • Some collaboratives choose to sponsor a manager or facilitator tasked with organizing the group.
  • While sponsoring a third-party requires additional funding, many collaboratives have found this to be an efficient approach.
  • Research on collaborations found that collaboratives sponsored by a third-party organizer were more likely to “produce true alignment and lead to powerful results.” Read these findings in an excerpt from the Stanford Social Innovation Review here.

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