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Connecting Research and Practice to Advance Cross–Sector Collaboration

Wednesday, Dec 09, 2015 Category Education

A Winter 2016 Reveille Newsletter feature by The Intersector Project​

Our mission is to advance what we call the intersector: a space in which collaboration among government, business, and non-profit results in solutions to social problems that cannot be solved by one sector alone.

We are seeing great promise​​ as the movement grows. There's a swell of academic research coming forward that provides practical insight into solving society's most complex issues.

But research only has value if people can access its findings and put them to use in the real world.

Practitioners continually tell us they are interested in the research but don't have the time and resources to extract takeaways that are truly meaningful to their work. This led us to launch our new Research to Practice series, which focuses on actionable intelligence for practitioners. We spend the time reading and understanding the literature, and distill it into what we hope is a usable format for those in the field.

Each installment is brief and includes three offerings: a summary of the importance of the research, actionable takeaways, and areas for deeper discussion and exploration. Each study is specific to a particular issue but offers commonality on the big picture that holds value for readers from across the learning community.

We hope the Research to Practice series will inspire practitioners of cross sector collaboration to integrate the learning process into their work. We believe that connections between researchers and practitioners can build robust momentum for successful cross sector collaboration in solving the social problems of our time.

A recent post in our series explores the growing integration of public health and transportation planning considerations. As with any skillful cross sector collaboration, the agendas of each community can be supported and expanded through their partnership with one another. Insights gleaned from a focus group of practitioners from the public health and transportation planning communities, supplemented by a review of forty-three case studies of other similar partnerships, can be found below.

Actionable, distilled research for cross sector collaboration

Public Health and Transportation Planning; eight takeaways for successful cross sector collaboration

When choosing whom to invite to the table, consider the big picture.
Include diverse organizations, particularly those that may not think of themselves as part of the public health or transportation communities school districts, academia, and developers, for example. This enables the collaboration to leverage a broad set of resources, expertise, and authority.

Creatively overcome regulatory differences among stakeholders.
Variations in funding, regulatory requirements, and populations served can appear as barriers to collaboration, but these can be addressed through the use of tools like MOUs, legal mandates, and policy coordination.

Use high-profile issues to help validate collaboration between communities.
Linking a goal shared by two or more communities (i.e. public health and transportation) to a broader movement can be helpful to advance support for partnerships. For example, healthy transportation planning has a natural connection to green transportation and alternative energy.​

Lead with shared goals.
While the public health and transportation communities may have differing motivations and priorities, by identifying the issues important to both (walkable communities, access to healthy food and transit), seemingly disparate sectors can both advance their priorities.

Build trust.
Human connection and relationships lie underneath any successful collaboration. Maximize trust by keeping processes transparent, sincerely committing to effort, using open and respectful dialogue, and freely sharing expertise and data.

Leverage grassroots efforts.
Community efforts are greatly influential in shifting political will in support of collaboration. Elected officials have built-in motivation to consider the activists, community members, and local organizations in their public policy making.

Assess and address knowledge gaps between partners.
Every community has its own language and context, and practitioners cited a lack of understanding as a significant barrier to collaboration. Sharing feedback, concerns, and opinions was present in all forty-three case studies of successful collaboration.

Create and share data repositories.
Centralize data (on evidence-based policies and best practices, for example) in a database to which practitioners have access. This creates a holistic picture of the issue, aids in planning and evaluation, and reduces costs.

The Intersector ProjectThe Intersector Project is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower practitioners in the business, government, and non-profit sectors to collaborate to solve problems that cannot be solved by one sector alone. We present real examples of collaborations in many places and across many issues, and illuminate the tools that make them successful.​