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Enhancing Collaboration

Kristy Docherty (Edinburgh Futures Institute, University of Edinburgh, UK)

Reimagining Public Sector Management

ISBN: 978-1-80262-022-1, eISBN: 978-1-80262-021-4

Publication date: 18 November 2022



The purpose of this chapter is to develop the idea of enhancing collaboration within a public context. It does so by exploring the challenge of working with others across organisational boundaries, when addressing complex issues. It discusses research findings from a Scotland based public service study concerned with collaborative practice and presents an empirical analysis of what it means to work in a relational way. The existing literature is reviewed alongside the study findings, connecting with contemporary theories and debates in the fields of collaboration, leadership and public administration.


The empirical work detailed in this chapter drew from collective and relational leadership theories which influenced the study design and methodological approach. The data collection method took the form of semi-structured interviews and data were analysed using thematic analysis supported by data mapping exercises. Data were obtained through interviews of 20 participants from multiple public service roles and organisations who were involved in similar activities linked to collaboration.


This chapter promotes an approach where disrupting traditional collaborative practice offers new insights in terms of (1) understanding the group process and (2) recognising what processual and behavioural adjustments can be made to enrich collaborative work. This approach was found to offer a number of benefits linked to building trust, promoting meaningful dialogue and altered the conversations that people chose to have.


The reconceptualisation of collaboration specifically illustrates what it means to ‘work in a more relational way’ and how it is understood by those attempting to build collaborative capacity, sustain public services and improve outcomes for citizens and communities. As such, it is this focus on relationships that is considered innovative and important to creating the open collaborative culture required for addressing complex issues and working across organisational boundaries.



Docherty, K. (2022), "Enhancing Collaboration", Diamond, J. and Liddle, J. (Ed.) Reimagining Public Sector Management (Critical Perspectives on International Public Sector Management, Vol. 7), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 31-54.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023 Kristy Docherty. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited