Thinking About a Collaborative Partnership

Why Work Jointly With Community Mental Health & Addiction Services?

The needs of students struggling with mental health and addiction issues on campus have significantly increased in the past decade. On-campus mental health care resources are often stretched to the limit. It only makes sense to utilize resources both on and off campus. Getting to know community resources and joining collaboratively with them in addressing the mental health and addiction needs of students can make the path and journey run smoother for everyone. The environment is changing as can be seen by the following trends which just strengthens the case for collaboration.

  • Services have dramatically shifted in the past decade from hospital to community
  • Policy development moving into encouragement of and direction toward collaboration/ partnerships/merging of resources.
  • Competition is being replace by cooperation.
  • Complexity of care increasing calling for multiple responses for possible problem solution
  • Quality of Life, especially focusing on wellness factors, are emerging as key issues of concern
  • Fragmentation of services and funding have resulted in organizations expected to find better ways of serving client populations with resources they currently have
  • Traditional funding is shrinking; to attract funding, we need do things better, more efficiently and join together to create innovative approaches
  • Collaborations reduce duplication of cost and effort
  • Beginning to see the emergence of contracting historically public functions to private sources with the result of reducing affordable or no cost service
  • A clearer understanding of youth development and the factors that dramatically increase the likelihood of successful growth to adulthood is evolving…”takes a whole village to educate/raise a child”

(n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2016, from the Chandler Center for Community Leadership

Partnership? Collaboration? Collaborative Partnership?

There is very little consensus in the literature or in practice about the language of collaboration. You often hear the above terms, and similar ones, used synonymously. So what exactly do they mean? Let’s get a better understanding.


“Partnership is a shared commitment, where all partners have a right and an obligation to participate and will be affected equally by the benefits and disadvantages arising from the partnership”
– Ros Carnwell and Alex Carson


“A mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations. The relationship includes a commitment to mutual relationships and goals; a jointly developed structure and shared responsibility; mutual authority and accountability for success; and sharing of resources and rewards.”
– P.W. Mattessich and B.R. Monsey

Collaborative Partnership

“A collaborative partnership is when a group works together in a joint intellectual endeavor that pools common interests, assets, and professional skills in order to promote broader goals and outcomes for the entire group’s benefit.”
– Margaret Pagel

Types of Relationships


As noted, there are different types and forms of relationships in which individuals and groups work together and utilize collaborative processes. The terminology you may use would depend on the type and structure of the relationship which you develop with other services either on-campus, off-campus or in the community.

For example, a relationship may range from simple networking to share information or consult between services to gather ideas for a project to a more complex arrangement of multiple organizations formalizing an agreement to collaborate and share staff resources to improve services to clients.

As you go through the different levels, note the degree of intensity defined in the purpose, structure and process of each relationship. The levels start at a simple, informal structure and move to more complicated relationships. The kind of working relationship differ in the degree to which power and decision-making is shared among partners

Identifying what works best for your particular situation can be helpful in deciding which type of relationship will work best for your campus needs.


  • What do we want a formal or informal relationship?
  • What type of organization(s) would be best for this relationship and what we want to achieve?
  • Do we have current relationships both on and off campus you can build on or do we need to seek out new partners?
Key Elements for Collaboration

Shared Vision, Mission and Goals

Partners have agreed upon the vision, mission, and goals of the partnership along with benchmarks and measurable outcomes.

Commitment to Collaboration

All partners are clear and committed to the length of time of collaboration, understand each partner’s assets and limitations and work together to build capacity of all partner organizations.

Clearly Defined Governance Structure

Clearly defined roles, responsibilities and procedures for leadership and governance have been established with input and agreement of all partners.

Common Processes

There is clear, open and accessible communication which is enhanced by shared processes and procedures among collaborators (e.g., common language, shared training, common referral forms , on-going feedback, shared data collection and evaluation).

Equity of Contributions

Partners strive to develop a Win-Win relationship with shared power guided by the principles of diversity, equity, anti-oppression and inclusiveness.

Sustainability Resources

Dedicated staff and champions, funding or shared resources are allotted to the collaboration. Key leaders and staff to champion the collaborative venture are essential to initial, maintain and sustain the partnership.

Embraces Diversity, Creativity and Change

It is recognized that collaborative partnerships evolve over time and all members need to be open to change, innovation and the diverse perspectives each person brings to the table.

Mutual Trust and Respect

There is a true sense of mutual trust and respect between and for each partner which honors each partner’s expertise and knowledge.