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Ensuring collaborative leadership

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • Actors responsible for facilitating collaboration must work to create an enabling environment for participation, problem-solving and decision-making, so that participants – a wide variety of actors with different agendas and priorities- share responsibility and feel ownership of collective outcomes. This often requires a mental and practical shift from more typical (and sometimes easier) authoritative leadership methods to more collaborative leadership methods.  

Collaborative leadership is a process through which individuals and organizations are encouraged to:

  • Share resources
  • Exchange information
  • Search for creative solutions to emerging challenges
  • Enhance capacity for mutual benefit and a common purpose by sharing risks, rewards and responsibilities
  • Exchange activities
  • Constructively explore differences
  • Collaborative leadership aims to give the GBV Coordinator the tools necessary to maintain the momentum and the commitment of those participating in a GBV coordination mechanism by employing techniques aimed at promoting collaboration, mutual responsibility and consensus.
  • Coordination sub-groups are an often under-utilized strategy in collaborative leadership. These sub-groups are essentially working groups of individuals within the coordination mechanism that are assigned specific tasks—many of which are related to the functions of a GBV coordination mechanism that are described in Section C. Coordination sub-groups are a useful way of delegating responsibility to a relatively small corps of volunteers (anywhere from four to 10 people) in order to increase efficiency of the coordination mechanism by avoiding the time-consuming process of managing all activities in a large quorum. Sub-groups are also useful because they: 
    • Provide an opportunity to exploit the specific capacities/expertise of partners. 
    • Facilitate capacity-building when those with less experience are encouraged to join a subgroup led by those with greater experience. 
    • Avoid top-down leadership in which the majority of decisions are made by the GBV Coordinator(s) or coordination mechanism chair/co-chair(s). 
    • Build cohesion among members working together for a common goal in small groups. 
    • Increase momentum of the coordination mechanism by allowing it to work simultaneously on a number of different objectives.



To ensure the proper functioning of the GBV coordination mechanism, participants must perform to their best ability within the agreed parameters of the coordination process. This means they must understand and act on responsibilities laid out in key operational guidance documents, such as the Terms of Reference, the Action Plan, etc. A mechanism for monitoring partners’ success in meeting their responsibilities is also necessary. The best way to encourage accountability is by example:  active participation of membership is stimulated by a committed coordination leadership. That said, the coordination lead must resist pressure to assume all responsibilities related to coordination so that membership remains active and involved.  The GBV Coordinator should ensure that:

  • The Action Plan designates agencies, individuals or small groups for specific tasks.

  • TOR for the Chair(s) are drafted at the outset.

  • Meetings are efficient and action-oriented.

  • Action points are included in meeting minutes.

  • There is a process through which agencies, individuals and small group commitments (as recorded in the minutes) are routinely reviewed.

  • Attending participants have the authority to make decisions on behalf of their designated organizations.

  • The GBV Coordinator continuously acknowledges and applauds the work of partner organizations that are meeting their responsibilities.


Source: Ward, J. 2010. Handbook for Coordinating Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings. GBV AoR. Section Five of the Handbook focuses on practical coordination skills aimed at creating and sustaining an active coordination membership.


Additional Tool:

IASC. No date. Tips and resources, IASC Cluster Leadership Training – Smarter Coordination Meetings.  Available in English.