It ranges from ad hoc one-to-one arrangements and informal networks, to project groups within or across departments, to multi-jurisdictional or multi-sector arrangements framed by formal agreements and documented protocols.

Victorian public sector managers often find themselves either participating in, or establishing and leading, some form of collaboration.

Collaboration across government is undertaken with different levels of formality and permanence. Mechanisms such as interdepartmental agency committees and, on a national level, Council of Australian Governments, represent one type of collaboration, while project teams, communities of practice or alumni groups represent more fluid forms of collaboration across the public sector.

Collaborations between public sector organisations are often undertaken within the auspices of ‘joined up’ government. Within this framework of ‘joined up’ government, individual agencies come together on the basis of common goals defined by stakeholders (communities or clients) and/or issues. Work is undertaken collaboratively across departments, portfolios or levels of government to address complex issues that cross individual agency boundaries.1

Collaborations are also undertaken between government agencies, community organisations and private sector organisations. The former collaborations are often framed within policy development processes or service delivery arrangements, often involving consultations, grants and/or other contracting arrangements. The latter are often framed within public-private partnerships or other contracting arrangements.

Victorian public sector managers need to become familiar with the various formal instruments of collaborative relationships (such as terms of reference or memorandums of understanding). However, of greater importance is the development of the skills and behaviours required to construct, frame and ensure productive engagement and collaborations, both formal and informal. Managers also need to be able to recognise and address the challenges that organisational differences and loyalties of members of any given collaboration can create.

The following development topic checklist focuses on the common reasons for and different types of collaboration; protocols and strategies for productive collaborations; and the key characteristics of the sectors from which collaborators may come.

Advanced interpersonal skills, the ability to work with diversity and (often) resilience are prerequisites for effective collaboration. These are addressed by other Development Guides and are not addressed explicitly in the checklist that follows.

What should a development activity cover?

The checklist that follows outlines the core content that development activities focusing on this subject area ought to cover in order to build the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for success in any Victorian public sector management role.

Accompanying the checklist is a list of resources. Use of these resources in the design and delivery of a development activity will help build knowledge, skills and behaviours that are of immediate and clear value in any management role in the Victorian public sector.

Some of these resources describe specific knowledge, skills or behaviours, while others provide information about the context in which Victorian public sector managers operate. In most cases, the resources do not address the topic in full. Additional material will still be required to provide comprehensive development in the relevant content area.

Most resources listed are freely available as downloads from the websites indicated.

8. Victorian Public Sector Commission, Victorian approaches to joined up government, November 2007

Core Content / Resources

Establishing the Context

Understanding the value of collaboration in terms of, for example, sharing resources or risks to achieve increased efficiency or outcomes, and/or efficient information exchange for mutual or unilateral benefit

Understanding the Common Context for Collaborative Activity

Understanding common contexts for collaborative activity in the public sector, such as addressing broad policy issues, multi-government action, place or population-based activities, integrated service delivery and subject-based information or knowledge exchange


Understanding Common Types of Collaboration

Understanding common types of collaborative activity, including:

  • Inter-agency committees and project teams
  • Regional management forums
  • Community engagement practices
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Communities of practice.


Understanding the Principles and Practice of Engagement

Understanding and creating different types of engagement, depending on purpose and stakeholders involved.


Understanding the Principles and Practices of Engagement

Understanding common theories about group dynamics (in the context of collaborations).

Strategies and actions for contributing to a collaboration.

Strategies and actions for setting up and leading a collaboration, including:

  • Setting and managing expectations
  • Establishing authority and accountabilities
  • Determining membership criteria
  • Setting goals and outcomes.

Understanding common protocols for:

  • Communication about and within the collaboration
  • Decision making
  • Dispute resolution
  • Seeking and managing resources.
  • Monitoring progress towards agreed goals and outcomes
  • Record keeping
  • Winding up the collaboration.

Understanding common governance documentation (such as terms of reference, memorandums of understanding, heads of agreement and grant agreements)

Techniques and technologies for stimulating productivity within collaborations.


Understanding the Different Sectors

Understanding the different accountabilities, governance structures, ways of operating and cultures of:

  • Victorian public sector organisations
  • Commonwealth Government organisations
  • Local government organisations
  • Not-for-profit organisations and the community sector
  • Private sector organisations.


Victorian Public Sector Commission, State of the Public Sector in Victoria (annual reports)

Australian Public Service Commission, State of the Service (annual reports)

Department of Planning and Community Development, Local government in Victoria (annual reports)

Victorian Public Sector Commission, Review of not-for-profit regulation (final report)

Seeking Assistance

Understanding when and how to seek assistance to support collaborative work.


  1. State Services Authority, Victorian approaches to joined up government, November 2007