Sometimes I find that different teams tend to work in silos and struggle to collaborate well together.

Program officer


There can be a tendency for teams to operate in silos or shy away from working across disciplines, perspectives and program strategy teams because of the challenges and time commitment such efforts can take.

With its emphasis on integrating many different perspectives, design offers tangible ways of dealing with questions of inclusivity and strategic collaboration. To strengthen collaboration among diverse teams, your design partner can take on the explicit role of creating an environment for people to come together, critique each others' work constructively, diffuse tensions and align around a common goal. Strong collaboration enables teams to expand their horizons and go further together in tackling complex problems. But it is not always simple to do as it necessitates being open to working with disciplinary perspectives that are different from one's own. This is where an effective process and deep experience in leading collaborative efforts comes in handy.

Common outputs or deliverables

Tips and tricks

  • During scoping, consider the increased level of coordination and complexity involved when multiple and diverse types of contributors will be involved, as well as who might be best suited to navigate agendas that may not be fully aligned.
  • To describe the facilitation role when briefing your design partner, consider using words such as 'dot connector', 'synthesizer' or 'facilitator', and don't rely on some of the titles found in design firms, including 'creative director', 'master architect' or 'solution developer'.
  • The investment can benefit from leveraging the design partner's perceived independence and focus on the user as the ultimate guiding reference, or key "decision maker" when interdisciplinary or inter-departmental teams get stuck.


  • There are many different facilitation styles that can be deployed when bringing group of stakeholders together. It is important to look for styles that incorporate some of the following ways of working - including open-ended questions as a step to incorporating a diversity of voices, intentionally making room for participants who are less automatically vocal, enshrining processes that will help to overcome the potential to defer to a few default voices, incorporating moments when the whole group can pull up and address key issues/tensions as they arise, and a willingness to be flexible and adaptable.

Questions for potential partners

  • How will you create a collaborative environment with feedback loops for diverse partners to coalesce and work together?
  • What kinds of processes do you rely on to address ambiguity and manage complexity?
  • How do you ensure that the "user's voice" drives collaborative processes when there may be a lack of clarity over what direction to go in?
  • Can you explain in detail what functions particular roles in your team perform within the described process?

Resources and links