In 2019, the Virginia-based Danville Regional Foundation (DRF) set a new strategic vision—to help more people believe in the transformation of the region and embrace their role in achieving it. A region formerly dominated by tobacco and textiles, the Dan River Region has made great strides toward reinvention. DRF recognized that increasing collaboration and building the civic capacity of the region would be critical to its economic transformation.

With this in mind, and building upon the success of the region’s Health Collaborative, DRF launched a new effort to build collaborative leaders across sectors. They engaged long-time partner, Healthy Places by Design (HPBD), and invited the Tamarack Institute to join the design team.

Together, the three organizations share a wealth of experience guiding community leaders through collaborative processes, as well as a fundamental belief that community change happens through effective collaboration.

We identified a need for a practical approach to leading cross-sector collaboration but did not want to force people to prescribe to any one model. Instead, the design team developed a framework that guides participants toward the appropriate structure and from ideas to action within their specific context.

The partners leveraged their combined experience to design the Collaboration Lab, an immersive leadership development experience. The Collaboration Lab works with a diverse cohort of individuals who are engaged in community change efforts to explore the core elements of impactful collaborations. The 10-month experience provides a framework, curriculum and resources, and peer-to-peer learning and coaching.

The foundation of the Collaboration Lab is the Collaborative Premise, first defined by David Chrislip and Carl Larson in the book Collaborative Leadership.

“If you bring the appropriate people together, as peers, in constructive ways with good content and context information, they will create authentic visions and strategies for addressing the shared concerns of the organization and community” (Chrislip and Larson 1994, Chrislip 2022).

The Collaboration Lab curriculum builds upon the Collaborative Premise and explores the nuances to give participants the “how to’s” of collaboration. The framework for this curriculum is the “3P model,” which includes three concurrent pathways of collaborative development: People, Process, and Planning. The core tenets of building trust and sharing power weave throughout each pathway, and the framework, at its foundation, centers on achieving equitable outcomes.

Read the full article about leading community transformation by Annie Martinie, Tim Schwantes, and Liz Weaver at Grantmakers in Health.