Key Issues > Best Practices and Leading Practices in Collaboration Across Governments, Nonprofits, and the Private Sector
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Best Practices and Leading Practices in Collaboration Across Governments, Nonprofits, and the Private Sector

GAO has identified a set of essential and complementary practices that provide a sound foundation for Collaboration. Running through these practices are a number of factors such as leadership, trust, and organizational culture that are necessary elements for a collaborative working relationship.

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Achieving important national outcomes, such as food safety, local economic development, environmental restoration, and homeland security, requires coordinated and collaborative efforts of a number of programs spread across the federal government, other levels of government, and private and nonprofit sectors. For example, combating synthetic opioids is a complex, crosscutting issue, which involves collaboration between federal agencies, as well as with international organizations and foreign governments. Agencies face a range of challenges and barriers when they attempt to work collaboratively.

Agencies can enhance and sustain their collaborative efforts by engaging in the eight practices identified below. (GAO-06-15) Agencies should:

  • Define and articulate a common outcome.
  • Establish mutually reinforcing or joint strategies.
  • Identify and address needs by leveraging resources.
  • Agree on roles and responsibilities.
  • Establish compatible policies, procedures, and other means to operate across agency boundaries.
  • Develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on results.
  • Reinforce agency accountability for collaborative efforts through agency plans and reports.
  • Reinforce individual accountability for collaborative efforts through performance management systems.

Federal agencies have used a variety of mechanisms to implement interagency collaborative efforts, such as the President appointing a coordinator, agencies co-locating within one facility, or establishing interagency task forces (GAO-12-1022). These mechanisms can be used to address a range of purposes including policy development; program implementation; oversight and monitoring; information sharing and communication; and building organizational capacity, such as staffing and training. Frequently, agencies use more than one mechanism to address an issue. Although the mechanisms differ in complexity and scope, they all benefit from certain key features, which raise issues to consider when implementing these mechanisms.

Key Considerations

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