The Center for the Study of Collaboration in Work and Society develops the understanding of effective collaboration, both as theory and as practice.
Collaborative projects bring together people with diverse skills and perspectives to pursue common purposes deliberately and cooperatively, engaging the widest possible range of capacities. Examples include (among others) autonomous teams and task forces in industry; stakeholder forums around issues of social responsibility; labor-management partnerships; and inter- professional groups in health care and education.
Collaboration contrasts with three other mindsets and ways of organizing: bureaucratic approaches relying on top-down rational planning and expert knowledge; market approaches maximizing decentralized autonomy; and traditionalist approaches seeking to maintain stable and established values and relations.
Of the four, collaboration is the least well-understood, and it is very hard to implement. But it may be best for solving the kind of complex and ill-structured problems that increasingly challenge modern society. It is particularly good at getting the full value from diverse kinds of knowledge, and at engaging maximum commitment from participants.
Currently the Center is responsible for the following programs:
- The Program on Collaborative School Reform has conducted research in several school districts throughout the United States. This work has linked student achievement outcomes to labor management partnerships at the district and school levels as well as teacher collaboration within and between schools.
- The Program on Collaborative Health Care Delivery has conducted research in a set of New Jersey hospitals and has documented improved performance in units with strong cross-disciplinary teams.
The Case For Collaboration (working paper)
Trust in a Complex World (book contents and introduction)
Building a Collaborative Enterprise (Harvard Business Review)
From Bureaucracy To Networks (Handbook of the Sociology of Work and Employment)