Understanding Collaboration

  • Helen Sullivan
  • Chris Skelcher
Chapter
Part of the Government Beyond the Centre book series (GBC)

Abstract

The emergence and form of collaborative activity has been the subject of study for a number of years, and has given rise to a series of theories which seek to explain this phenomenon. As befits a way of working that cuts across traditional boundaries, theoretical perspectives informing collaborative activity between organisations tend to be located in a variety of disciplines, including organisational sociology, political science and economics (Faulkner and de Rond, 2000). In general theories do not seek to provide a comprehensive explanation of the collaborative process. Instead they tend to offer insights into particular aspects of collaboration. However, it is important to note that the predominant perspective in the literature is one that views collaboration as an exception. The narratives of policy development, decision-making and programme delivery are ones in which individual organisations work largely independently in their functional ‘silos’ (Richards et al., 1999) and where inter-organisational working — or even co-operation between different divisions in the same organisation — are presented as activities that cause difficulties and generate disproportionate transaction costs. Differences in organisational interests, professional agendas and ways of working, the political agendas of ministers, councillors and quango chairs and the tradition of input rather than outcome budgeting all contribute to the erection of a substantial barrier to collaborative activity. The methodology for the analysis of collaboration in public policy therefore places questions of conflict above those of co-operation.

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Copyright information

© Helen Sullivan and Chris Skelcher 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Sullivan
  • Chris Skelcher

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