Stage One – Preparation.
The catalyst for collaboration will influence Stage One. If it’s a voluntary collaboration, the initial collaborative group and the general direction / purpose of the collaboration will have started to crystallize through informal conversations. Since Regional Hubs are an example of a mandated collaboration this will not likely have happened across such a wide range of organizations and sectors. Thus, Stage One Preparation activities will be more critical to identify shared ideas, passions, potential conflicting processes and each others’ constituencies.
Stage One is very important to the ongoing productivity and success of a collaboration. Too often, this stage gets the least attention in any collaboration as people attempt to rely solely on the usual decision processes and their existing ideas and assumptions about the collaborating organizations.
At the same time, it’s important not to get bogged down with analysis and trying to figure out all the details before making any move. The Secretariat can use different methods to build relationships while doing the tasks of this stage, and to limit the level of detail in the beginning, as additional detail can best be added through the experiences of future stages.
Regional Hubs have been mandated as a part of the post-secondary student mental health strategy, so participants will need to spend time building relationships, and have more conversations about potential initiatives, considering the chain of work and recommendations involved in this policy initiative.
The Preparation Stage can also be an important vehicle for exploring potential collaborators. Asking “Who else needs to be engaged?” from time to time throughout the stages, and developing appropriate ways to communicate or engage helps keep the collaboration connected within its ecosystem, and more likely to avoid flagrant examples of ‘unintentional sabotage’.
This process also requires ongoing attention to onboarding new members – and this process can also help existing members to remind themselves about the original expectations. Revisiting the desired outcomes of the Regional Hubs and continuing to build the linkages with wider circles of professionals and organizations who can contribute to achieving them helps in this process.
Diagnostic tools, such as the attached Collaboration Complexity Diagnostic can help to guide discussions in a Collaboration Committee wishing to highlight the extent of complexity they will need to navigate. Other strategies include:
- Learning more about what members of the Regional Hub have in common, as well as similarities and differences
- Using a common focal point is a way to help identify what differences are enabling and which detract from a student benefiting from a collaborative service or a seamless transition. Tools such as the
- Student Academic Journey Map and
- Student mental health journey scenarios – Starter Set as starting points. Each Regional Hub will develop additional scenarios that are relevant to their contexts. These hopefully will be shared for common use so that, over time the sector creates a significant pool of such resources.
- Identifying the range of organizations and professionals who might be valuable members of a Regional Hub, or whose expertise would be good to draw on can be aided by considering all those who are relevant to a mentally healthy campus.
- In addition, putting a cultural and intersectional lens on a situation helps to highlight the need for specialized supports, which will require building relationships and understanding cultural norms and protocols, such as Elders and faith-based supports. Some professionals will be scarce resources in the province – for example the mentally healthy campus includes a collective quadrant, which includes the built environment (buildings and movement between buildings). For example, some architects bring an understanding of how the built environment can be designed to have a positive or negative influence on dimensions of mental distress, such as loneliness.
- Given the diversity in many aspects of the post-secondary sector, various Terrain maps, including systems maps will be useful to provide a common visual description of the diverse contexts, students, and existing collaborative information sharing / decision making bodies and associations. Workshops and other toolkits provide a start to building a common array of knowledge resources:
- Diverse student journeys and transitions. A Student Academic Journey Map, Student mental health journey scenarios – Starter Set and Student Transitions – Starter Set provide a starting point for these
- Diverse Contexts will include
- remote, rural, urban and metropolitan environments,
- small/ medium/large post-secondary institutions and student associations (including size and demographics of student body, staff and faculty),
- diversity of geographic layout (i.e satellite campuses, geographic footprint of campus buildings)
- Different types of students include those in short and long-term programs or apprenticeships, undergraduate and graduate students, diverse living arrangements such as residence, in-community or dynamic housing, students identified using an intersectional lens, First Nation students, international students, distance learning students, students with families, single/married students, etc. The tool Student Profiles – Starter Set provides some examples
- Diverse Contexts will include
- Collaborative information sharing or decision-making bodies across post-secondary institutions and student associations (and identification of institutions not included).
Tasks of Stage One and ongoing:
- Ask who else needs to be involved, in what ways
- Begin to build, or deepen, relationships and working trust, in part through deepening your common understanding of each other and your collective terrain
- Practicing group decision making processes where relevant
- Develop entry to group processes to make sure new members can engage as quickly as possible, and that existing members are open to reconsidering key elements of previous decisions in a way that does not continuously freeze progress
- Use conversations between members to start the process of creating different systems maps. This helps both to build relationships and to begin the process of developing common information and common language, which will aid future stages of the work.
- Identify clusters of people / organizations interested in actions with different degrees of innovation, and form working committees with linkages to maximize learning, identify overlap and common issues
- Explore possibilities for projects. In doing this, make sure to explore the different lenses you each use to understand those possibilities so that you can leverage your diversity and create ‘better together’ opportunities by combining strengths of multiple organizations. Use a diverge/converge process such as the double diamond process to create a large list, then reduce it to a few that can be prototyped quickly, using tools such as story-boarding, table top prototyping, role-playing.
- Establish priorities on a workable set of collaborative projects and craft the broad strokes of each, so that work can begin on arranging for the necessary resources to proceed.
In Stage One, It is as important to use these tasks as catalysts for building relationships as it is as analytical tasks for projects. The key is to move from talking to getting something on paper – this supports conversations that discuss the ways in which the initial graphics represent their reality, or don’t. So initial versions of tools such as Rich Pictures and Systems maps are best created with broad strokes in Stage One, leaving lots of space for future additions.
There may need to be several iterations of crafting and sharing versions of an evolving concept and adapting it based on participants’ review, discussion with colleagues in their organization and sector, until people are happy that it’s a ‘good enough’ concept to get commitments for the resources that will be provided by members of the collaborative and/or to discuss with potential funders and organizations to invite to join the collaboration and/or to discuss with potential funders or invite additional organizations to join the collaboration.
Stage One ends with a Learning session, that assesses the group’s process, trust and group cohesion as well as any Assessment of Progress and Outcomes/Value to provide information to all organizations for their Go/NoGo decision to continue participating. The early Terrain maps can be updated with additional details learned along the process. Adaptations can be made to the group’s process or within collaborating members’ operations to improve the next stage, or to improve future collaborations. The funder may also have a Go/NoGo decision depending on the agreements made.