Research Briefing, March/April 2020

blogimage_researchbriefingEach month, there is new, fascinating research emerging that provides practical insight into how the government, business, and non-profit sectors partner to address society’s most pressing problems. To keep our readers up to date on this work, which comes from a variety of academic and non-academic sources, we compile a bimonthly briefing and publish it on our blog — for researchers who want to stay up to date on progress in the field of cross-sector collaboration and practitioners who are interested in how this research may be applicable to their work.

This month’s briefing includes articles about:

  • organizational risks of cross-sector partnerships in the health sector,
  • the challenges of using broker organizations to facilitate cross-sector collaboration,
  • organization hybridity as a source of innovation,
  • evaluating the collective impact approach, and
  • multi-agency collaboration in the transportation sector.

The Organizational Risks Of Cross-Sector Partnerships: A Comparison Of Health And Human Services Perspectives,” Health Affairs, Shauna Petchel, Sherril Gelmon, and Bruce Goldberg

Abstract: “What factors do health and human services leaders assess when considering collaborative opportunities, and what do they worry about? How organizational decision makers perceive risk can influence the success or failure of cross-sector partnerships designed to address social determinants of health. This article captures insights from leaders at twenty-two health and human services organizations in Oregon who were involved in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Accountable Health Communities initiative in 2019 and familiar with efforts by their local health systems to identify people with unmet social needs and refer them to community programs. We explore perspectives on the risks and benefits associated with this cross-sector work. Leaders from both sectors perceived collaboration risks to reputation, sustainability, and compliance with regulatory or funder requirements. They also had difficulty gauging the reliability of partners that were sometimes perceived as competitive or coercive. Risk perceptions were manifested differently across sectors, which has implications for the design, implementation, and governance of cross-sector initiatives.

Broker Organizations to Facilitate Cross‐Sector Collaboration: At the Crossroad of Strengthening and Weakening Effects,” Public Administration Review, Lea Stadtler and Özgü Karakulak

Abstract: “Cross‐sector collaboration has emerged as an important way for public management to address complex social issues. Given the manifold challenges of governing and implementing such collaborations, scholars emphasize the benefits of using broker organizations to facilitate and strengthen cross‐sector collaboration. However, this comparative longitudinal case study of broker organizations that support global health partnerships shows a less straightforward pattern: despite their good intentions, two of the four broker organizations analyzed subtly weakened the collaboration by gradually replacing the partners’ cross‐sector tasks and decision‐making with unilateral, broker‐based ones. By juxtaposing this pattern with the other two broker organizations’ trajectories, this study reveals the processes underlying brokers’ role drift and unintended collaborative weakening and those allowing them to maintain their facilitation role. On this basis, the study exposes overlooked collaboration dynamics to reveal the boundaries of using broker organizations as a mechanism to facilitate cross‐sector collaboration.

Hybridizing the Triple Helix: A Prerequisite for Managing Wicked Issues,” Financial Accountability & Management, Anna Thomasson and Caroline Wigren Kristoferson

Abstract: “Striving to meet the challenges facing our society today, there is a growth in the number of cross‐sector collaborations. Expectations on these organizations are high in terms of their ability to deliver innovative solutions to wicked issues, but the task is challenging. This study contributes to our understanding of Triple Helix constellations and their ability to take on challenges related to complex and wicked issues. Even if research on hybrid organization is quite extensive, our understanding of how organizations hybridize is still scarce. With a holistic perspective on hybridity, as a point of departure, the purpose in this study is to analyze hybridization in order to investigate to what extent an organization recognizes hybridity and adapts strategy and processes in order to exploit hybridity and use it as a source of creativity and innovation. We answer the purpose by combining research on hybrid organization with research on strategy and boundary spanning activities and by analyzing an organization’s hybridizing process, using a case study approach. The study contributes to existing research on organizational hybridity theoretically as well as empirically.

Finding the Impact: Methods for Assessing the Contribution of Collective Impact to Systems and Population Change in a Multi‐Site Study,” New Directions for Evaluation, Sarah Stachowiak, Jewlya Lynn, and  Terri Akey

Abstract: “John Kania and Mark Kramer put forward “Collective Impact” in 2011 as a framework for organizing multi‐sector collaborative efforts to achieve change at scale. The collective impact theory of change posits that by establishing and implementing its five conditions, groups can achieve meaningful systems changes to create long‐term gains in social and environmental conditions. While significant scale uptake has occurred, questions have remained about the degree to which collective impact, as an approach, actually works to achieve change at scale. In 2017, ORS Impact and Spark Policy Institute embarked on an evaluation effort to understand the degree to which the collective impact approach contributed to population‐level change across many sites. We sought to answer this question with as much rigor as possible, without attempting to simplify the complexity of the context, the variability of implementation of collective impact, or the many interim changes needed to see the impact at scale. This chapter shares the essential methods our research team used. We do not seek to share the findings; instead, we hope that others can learn from and use these methods to continue to strengthen the sector’s understanding of when, how, and why different collaborative efforts work or do not. In addition to describing the key methods, the authors will reflect on considerations, lessons learned, and recommendations to other evaluators who might seek to answer similar questions or use similar tools and methods.”

Guidebook for Multi-Agency Collaboration for Sustainability and Resilience,” RAND Corporation, Susan A. Resetar et al.

“Transportation agencies have historically been dominated by their mission to move people and goods quickly and efficiently from one location to another. However, increasingly, transportation agencies are asked to meet multiple community goals with each project and transportation dollar spent. This is happening because of an increased realization by agencies, elected officials, and the public that actions taken by transportations agencies affect other areas such as air quality, affordable housing, community resilience, etc.

This situation creates two challenges. First, agencies must shift their thinking from focusing exclusively on transportation to considering other broad goals such as sustainability, housing affordability, and historic preservation. Second, agencies cannot achieve these broader goals on their own; they need to collaborate with other agencies, organizations, and institutions to effect change. This project is motivated by the need to understand how transportation agencies can pursue multi-sector collaborations most effectively. Collaboration sounds easy on paper, but actually developing and maintaining partnerships and using them to collectively pursue joint goals is anything but.

The project objective is to develop a guidebook for multi-agency collaboration, identifying factors that lead to success, that may be used by transportation agencies interested in collaborating with other agencies and nongovernmental organizations.