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Why networks and collaborations

Networks and collaborative practices have long been a key to how people organised themselves for socialisation and survival. In modern society they remain just as important: helping us to work together to solve complex and persistent problems, generate new and innovative products and services, increasing our productivity and resilience, link up fragmented services, create new music and art forms and generally reach out across boundaries to build social connections. Building networks and working collaboratively makes a lot of sense and can deliver many things that are not possible by working alone. But they don’t always happen organically or by magic. Most are hard to create and even harder to sustain. They are also not business as usual and require new ways of thinking, behaving, managing, leading and evaluating.

 

My research

I have been interested in networks and collaborations for a long time, first as a social services practitioner and manager, and later as an academic researcher. Although I have quite an eclectic research portfolio, my primary interest is in the formation, design, structure, processes and evaluation of networks as well as the behaviours, including collaborative practices that underpin these forms.

 

My Ph.D. thesis was on integrated human services and the role of networked arrangements. In this I set out a typology that differentiated different types of connecting relationships – the 3 Cs – cooperating, coordinating and collaborating and aligned them to different types of networks – cooperating networks, coordinating networks and collaborative structures. My theory is that not all networks are the same – they can and should be designed fit-for-purpose – with different strengths of relationships or connections required to produce different outcomes. For example, if information sharing is the goal, then cooperation is all that is really required. Whereas, if you are looking to better align your resource, reduce duplication and deliver joint programs, for example, then coordination is required. Both of these focus only on change at the periphery and are generally what is required for the bulk of the initiatives – it is about doing things more efficiently. But if you are looking for break through innovations, or systems change, collaboration is needed.  

 

Over the years I have produced more than 180 publications, books, journal papers, conference papers and research and industry reports, as well as fact sheets broadly on these topics. The purpose of this webpage is to create a place to pull together and house all these bits and pieces, invite others to read and comment and perhaps, if interested enough, to collaborate on some new ideas.

 

I am currently interested in the productivity and social impact of collaborative research networks and am working with several colleagues on this project, using both SNA and interviews to peer into the heart of research collaborative practice as well as uncovering and linking the different structural patterns to outcomes, and most excitingly exploring the role of the ‘connector’. Here is my research collaboration network. From this you can see how important it is to have good connections and to use your networks well. It is also a much more interesting and more funner way to work – and I think in the end, although it can be challenging and take more time and effort, there are much better outcomes.

 

 Research Collaboration Network

 

Some of my ongoing interests include:

  • Integrated services modes
    • The Competition – Collaboration dilemma: Is competition always the bad guy?
  • Social procurement (book coming out in 2015)
  • Social services sector and its ongoing viability
    • Government /community relationships
  • Dark networks – police corruption & sporting drug networks
  • The Micro-processes of networks – the role of individual agency, language, practice generally
  • Asset Management: its management and leadership – but not as you know it!
  • Stakeholder Engagement and management

 

You can find out more about my work on this webpage:

Currently I am employed as Chair of a Collaborative Research Network: Policy and Planning for Regional Sustainability. The purpose of the network is to build research capacity and capability in regional universities in Australia. I am also a Professor in the SCU Business School, Southern Cross University, at the Gold Coast Queensland, an Adjunct Professor in the QUT Business School, Brisbane and a Fellow of the International Society of Engineering Asset Management. I am still very interested in what is going on in practice and continue to work with a number of community based and government projects.

 

NB To see what I'm thinking about these days, visit my blog or my Linkedin profile.