Evaluating Cross-sector Collaboration

To help users find relevant, quality resources from our Resource Library, we create curated lists on a variety of topics, bringing important practitioner- and academic-oriented work to the forefront.


Here we present resources for evaluating cross-sector collaboration — tools, reports, and scholarly articles to help practitioners measure collaborative performance, determine which method of evaluation is best suited for their goals, assess and enhance outcomes of cross-sector partnerships, and more.


View all our curated lists here.

Scholarly Article

Enhancing the Impact of Cross-Sector Partnerships: Four Impact Loops for Channeling Partnership Studies, Journal of Business Ethics, Rob van Tulder, M. May Seitanidi, Andrew Crane, and Stephen Brammer, 2016

This paper addresses the topic of this special symposium issue: how to enhance the impact of cross-sector partnerships. The paper takes stock of two related discussions: the discourse in cross-sector partnership research on how to assess impact and the discourse in impact assessment research on how to deal with more complex organizations and projects. We argue that there is growing need and recognition for cross-fertilization between the two areas. Cross-sector partnerships are reaching a paradigmatic status in society, but both research and practice need more thorough evidence of their impacts and of the conditions under which these impacts can be enhanced. This paper develops a framework that should enable a constructive interchange between the two research areas, while also framing existing research into more precise categories that can lead to knowledge accumulation. We address the preconditions for such a framework and discuss how the constituent parts of this framework interact. We distinguish four different pathways or impact loops that refer to four distinct orders of impact. The paper concludes by applying these insights to the four papers included in this special issue.”

Scholarly Article

Evaluating the Productivity of Collaborative Governance Regimes: A Performance Matrix, Public Performance & Management Review, Kirk Emerson and Tina Nabatchi, 2015

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“Experiments in collaborative governance over the last several decades have transformed the way the public’s business is getting done. Despite growing interest, empirical research on the performance of cross-boundary collaboration continues to be limited by conceptual and methodological challenges. This article extends previous research to develop a performance matrix for assessing the productivity of collaborative governance regimes (CGRs). Three performance levels (actions, outcomes, and adaptation) are addressed at three units of analysis (participant organizations, the CGR itself, and target goals), creating a performance matrix of nine critical dimensions of CGR productivity. This performance matrix is illustrated with a case study of a CGR operating on the U.S.-Mexico border.”


Current Practice in the Evaluation of Cross-sector Partnerships for Sustainable Development, The Partnering Initiative, Raphael Serafin, Darian Stibbe, Claudia Bustamente, and Carolin Schramm, 2008

This working paper aims “to assess the ‘how and what’ of what concerns partnership practitioners in evaluating the cross-sector partnerships in which they are involved. The motivation was to identify the ingredients of a successful partnership evaluation and to identify priorities for further research and development of tools for evaluating cross-sector partnerships.


By canvassing the views of partnership practitioners, the project sought to answer the following questions:

  1. Definitions: Is there a consensus on the terminology related to evaluating cross-sector partnerships?
  2. Aspects of Evaluation: Which aspects of partnering are considered to be the most important in evaluations of cross-sector partnerships?
  3. Planning Evaluation: In what ways do partnership practitioners plan to evaluate their partnerships and what is the focus of such evaluations?
  4. Tools: What tools are used for evaluating cross-sector partnerships?
  5. Improving Evaluation: What are the most important barriers to improving evaluations of cross-sector partnerships?”
Scholarly Article

Public Value Creation by Cross-sector Collaborations: A Framework and Challenges of Assessment, Public Administration, Stephen B. Page, Melissa M. Stone, John M. Bryson, and Barbara C. Crosby, 2015

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“This article proposes ways to assess the public value that cross-sector collaborations produce. It introduces a framework featuring three dimensions of public value – democratic accountability, procedural legitimacy, and substantive outcomes – that reflect distinct priorities and concerns for public administration. Utilizing examples from research on a multi-year cross-sector collaboration in the transportation field, we illustrate the framework’s application and identify techniques and challenges for assessing the collaborative creation of public value. The article concludes with questions and propositions to guide future research.”


Evaluating Collaboratives: Reaching the Potential, University of Wisconsin, Cooperative Extension, Ellen Taylor-Powell, Boyd Rossing, and Jean Geran, 1998

This Toolkit looks at the complex process of evaluating collaborative efforts. “Familiar evaluation practices — ones largely built on a discrete or distinct program delivered by one agency — don’t seem to work. Field staff have begun raising a variety of questions which indicate the following evaluation challenges:


  • How can we set realistic outcomes when other collaborators are involved
  • How can we measure outcomes when collaboration is often long-term and dependent on so many factors?
  • We are supposed to be working together but I have to report my own accomplishments to my superiors. How can I take some credit for my collaborative work without undermining the effort?
  • I’m being asked to join every collaborative. It seems that all I do is go to meetings. How do I know when to be involved, what my role should be, and when to say no?
  • Is evaluating the process of the collaborative good enough or do we need to measure the outcomes of our work?
  • What do I report to my agency when they want to know what impact I’m having?
  • When we are all in this together, how do we distinguish one agency’s role from another agency’s role?”

Assessing Strategic Partnership: The Partnership Assessment Tool, Strategic Partnership Taskforce and the Nuffield Institute for Health, Brian Hardy, Bob Hudson, and Eileen Waddington, 2003

“The purpose of this tool is to provide a simple, quick and cost-effective way of assessing the effectiveness of partnership working. It enables a rapid appraisal (a quick ‘health check’) which graphically identifies problem areas. This allows partners to focus remedial action and resources commensurate with the seriousness and urgency of the problems. Using the Tool thus avoids exhaustive, lengthy and costly investigations of partnership working in general. And for those just setting up partnerships the Tool provides a checklist of what to ensure and what to avoid.”


An Introduction to Evaluation Designs in Pay for Success Projects, Urban Institute, Kelly A. Walsh, Rebecca TeKolste, Ben Holston, and John K. Roman, 2016

“In PFS projects, evaluations trigger payments to funders by determining if the project’s outcome targets are met or exceeded. By making payment dependent on achievement, the PFS structure encourages governments to focus on outcomes and measure success through rigorous, transparent, and objective evaluations. For stakeholders pursuing PFS projects, however, considering how best to incorporate evaluation into project design can be confusing and even intimidating. This brief provides a basic overview of evaluation designs to assist PFS stakeholders engaged in deal development. It focuses on the concept of comparison and its relation to various designs, and it presents key questions that PFS planners should address as they participate in evaluation design discussions.”

Scholarly Article

Does Cross-Sector Collaboration Lead to Higher Nonprofit Capacity?, Journal of Business Ethics, Michelle Shumat, 2018.

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“Cross-sector social partnership (CSSP) case-based theory and research have long argued that nonprofits that engage in more integrative and enduring cross-sector partnerships should increase their organizational capacity. By increasing their capacity, nonprofits increase their ability to contribute to systemic change. The current research investigates this claim in a large-scale empirical research study. In particular, this study examines whether nonprofits that have a greater number of integrated cross-sector partnerships have greater capacities for financial management, strategic planning, external communication, board leadership, mission orientation, and staff management than nonprofits that have other types of interorganizational relationships. Moreover, it examines whether the length of these partnerships is associated with better capacity. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis drawn from surveys of 452 nonprofit organizations suggests that cross-sector collaboration is not systematically related to increased capacity. However, the results suggest that more enduring relationships between government and nonprofit organizations that extend beyond funder-recipient relationships are related to greater strategic planning capacity. Implications for CSSP research are drawn from the results, especially those concerned with the outcomes of CSSPs.”


The Integration Initiative: Three Year Evaluation Report, Living Cities, Mt. Auburn Associates, 2014

“In January 2010, Living Cities launched The Integration Initiative (TII) to support ‘bold, promising approaches that have the potential to transform the lives of low-income people and the communities in which they live.’ …

This report is a culmination of the first three years of the work of TII’s partner sites: the Baltimore Integration Partnership, Cleveland’s Greater University Circle Community Wealth Building Initiative, Detroit’s Woodward Corridor Initiative, Minneapolis/St. Paul’s Corridors of Opportunity and Newark’s Strong Healthy Communities Initiative. The report outlines the successes and challenges of each site and provides lessons learned for funders and practitioners on how to dramatically improve outcomes for low-income people in America’s cities.”

Scholarly Article

Evaluating Collaboration: The Solution to One Problem Often Causes Another, Public Administration Review, Chris Silva, 2018

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“Collaboration has become the predominant approach to solving complex public problems. This choice, however, often is not driven by demonstrated effectiveness. Collaboration is instead chosen in the hope that a networked arrangement will be more effective than individual organizations working on the issue alone. Questions regarding collaborative effectiveness persist and constitute a significant challenge facing both public management practitioners and public administration scholars. In light of the case study in this issue of Public Administration Review by Maurits Waardenburg and colleagues, this article reviews the current thinking on the measurement of collaborative performance and discusses steps that professionals can take to evaluate the effectiveness of their collaborative endeavors.”