Collaboration Overview


This Complex Collaboration Model has been developed as a support to Regional Hubs in Alberta’s post-secondary mental health strategy. Examples and language in the toolkit are aimed at this application, but the fundamental approach is one that could be adapted to any multi-organization collaboration.

Regional Hubs for post-secondary mentally healthy campuses have been mandated as a part of the Alberta Provincial Strategy for post-secondary student mental health. Among other elements, including the respective roles of Advanced Education and Health sectors, the strategy sets out the mandate of these Regional Hubs. The provincial post-secondary strategy fits within Alberta’s overall Valuing Mental Health strategy.

Healthy Campus Alberta (HCA) is a community of practice created by collaboration among student associations, post-secondary institutions and independent professionals. It is supported financially through the Post-secondary student mental health strategy, to be a platform for multiple players to come together on common issues. HCA is also the steward for this toolkit and other resources that support diverse players in working together.  

The toolkit is founded on the assumption that a Hub can be a point of connection among individuals, teams or organizations with complementary skills and resources willing to collaborate on a common objective. Structures and decision-making processes of Hubs can vary, but the opportunity for co-creation is best served by consensus decision making among equals who are looking for ways to find the opportunities in their diversity. These tools have been developed to serve such collaborative design-oriented decision making. Hierarchies that depend on top-down direction and compliance may be more efficient in the short run, but are limited by the worldview of the decision maker, and lack the ability for long-term effectiveness in achieving shared long term outcomes.

Alberta’s post-secondary mental health strategy recognizes that no one of these organizations – institutions, student associations, health care organizations and community agencies – can achieve the desired outcomes alone. The sum of the parts is no longer an acceptable impact.  

However, creating a shared approach for mutual gain is not an easy task. Having to navigate the challenges inherent in collaborating with this array of diverse interests and characteristics among these organizations and people makes Regional Hubs an example of a  “complex collaboration”.  

Complex collaborations are not always effective. Too often, they involve huge amounts of time and energy to develop and manage and leave people frustrated and dissatisfied with the outcome. This Model has been developed to provide some insights and approaches that weave together a variety of processes and theories to enhance the effectiveness, productivity and efficient operation of these complex collaborations.

This toolkit provides principles and mental tools, not prescribed actions.  This is important because complex collaboration strategies must be crafted and implemented in ways that fit:

  • the particular context of each collaborator for mentally healthy campuses,
  • diverse characteristics of students, and with
  • the dynamic nature of the wider regional community and societal terrain.  

Tools from other toolkits will also be relevant – including Student mental health journey toolkit, the Student Academic Journey Map and the Systemic Mentally Healthy Campus Maturity Model.

Continuous learning and adapting tools

The tools in this toolkit are all prototype tools – refinements will be made as people gain more experience with them when designing and implementing their strategies. Since these strategies will be in new terrain for most organizations, a ‘learning and development’ approach will be as or more important than evaluative activities in the early stages of initiatives.

Ideas can be posted on the community conversation section of the toolkit and Healthy Campus Alberta will steward the process for revising as well as adding new tools on the site.