5.0 CHALLENGES TO COLLABORATION
There were several challenges reported by interviewees to moving collaboration forward as
a way of working together.
Firstly, although the majority of the voluntary sector representatives indicated that they
felt that SIDPD provided them with increased legitimacy with the federal government, several
also felt that the government still saw them as advocacy organizations and thus not providing
“objective” policy development. There may be links between this issue and the
voluntary sector’s expressed need for a review of charitable status regulations which
could have an impact on the perception of organizations’ advocacy roles.
5.2 Support for Skills Development
If public policy is defined as a commitment to a course of action and a set of outcomes by
those with the resources and power to carry it out, there is also realization that no organization
or individual starts out with the skills and the knowledge necessary to function effectively
in this collaborative milieu11. Much of the necessary skills
and knowledge can only be attained through action learning or targeted workshops where people
learn by working together on real issues with opportunities to reflect on their experiences.
5.3 Understanding Jurisdictions in Public Policy Development
Several of the projects dealt with issues that were either solely within provincial jurisdiction
or part of a shared jurisdiction. Several interviewees spoke of the time and resources spent
sorting jurisdictional issues out and of the need for federal government project officers
to help identify jurisdiction from the beginning of a project
This issue is very much related to support for the federal government playing a facilitator
role – which in fact it does not need to be front and center on all issues. This notion
is very much in keeping with the work underway in some areas of the country with regard to
Urban Agreements—where there are federal staff assigned to act as facilitators across
multi faceted agreements with the federal, provincial and municipal levels.
5.4 Administrative Constraints
The last point is one that forms a backdrop to all evaluations and analysis of horizontal
initiatives – that is bureaucratic and administrative constraints.
This issues is some ways the bane of the Western World. Recent research in Canada, in the
UK and in the US identifies and leads to similar conclusions with regard to initiatives similar
These findings include:
- The tendency (by government programs) to take a provider-centred perspective rather
than that of the service user.
- The lack of incentives or rewards for organizations or individuals who contribute
to corporate/horizontal goals or those of another department or organizations.
- The absence of the skills and capacity to develop and deliver cross-cutting solutions.
- Budgets and organizational structures that are arranged around vertical, functional
lines (e.g., education, health, defense) rather than horizontal, cross-cutting problems and
issues (e.g., social exclusion, sustainable development).
- Systems of accountability (e.g., audit) and the way risk is handled often work at
cross-purposes to innovative crosscutting work.
- The centre is not always effective at giving clear, strategic direction, and providing
mechanisms for resolving conflict between departments.
Clearly these issues are ones that will be a challenge for sometime as the government and
the voluntary sector collectively develop and hone the skills and understanding required to
manage complex interrelated problems.
11Journeys in Governance: The Role of the Public Sector in Addressing Tough Community Problems, James P Ellsworth and Dr Lawrence Jones Walters, April, 2004 (unpublished)