By Carol Bruce-Fritz, Community Health Partnership
Collaboration has many roots. Some are obvious; some are complex; many are difficult to isolate. Individuals might collaborate for safety or companionship. Countries might collaborate for mutual defense or shared economic goals. What is at the core of collaboration among companies? I suspect the reasons are as varied as the circumstances, but I have noticed that for every altruistic reason, there must be a corresponding business reason for true collaboration to thrive.
In fact, collaboration among companies or organizations rarely moves past the “talking” stage when business reasons are not readily apparent. Motivations should be disclosed and discussed openly before any group attempts collaboration. Understanding and accepting that there must be both altruistic and business motivations is key to opening up a space for collaboration, and acknowledging both up front makes collaboration possible.
Colorado is full of this kind of meaningful collaboration, especially in the health care sector. At least 24 health-focused entities are bringing together leaders across sectors to collaborate to work toward improved health care services and population health. These entities, referred to collectively as “health alliances,” are helping to make clear both the altruistic and business motivations for collaborating in health care. Health alliances represent a diverse group of interested parties that come together through strong facilitation, leadership and trust to make improvements in the health of their community’s target population.
Many health alliances focus on building transparency and mutual understanding of the core challenges in their community. Transparency about our motivations builds trust. It also solidifies what we have in common. It enables us to set a common agenda and work toward mutual goals. Transparency fosters collaboration that demonstrates true value to each entity, and it provides a foundation upon which we can disagree. In every collaborative endeavor, participants have to feel okay about opting out when the common agenda does not align with their business needs.
The Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved has convened the Colorado Network of Health Alliances (the Network) since 2012, in order to support health alliances striving to improve health outcomes in communities throughout the state. The Network exists to foster strategic learning, networking and collaboration between members. The Network is yet another silo-breaker, allowing disparate groups from across Colorado the opportunity to collaborate, raise the voice of the collective efforts that are improving health in Colorado, and support each other with knowledge and advice.
Saying you are collaborating is easy. Truly collaborating is hard work. It requires thought and looking deeply into its benefits. It requires courage to ask hard questions. Sometimes it means you won’t get everything you want, exactly the way you want it. However, it also means your voice is magnified. It means your vision has clarity and depth because it has been informed by multiple perspectives. It validates your alignment with others. It means you are part of a community.