Five levels of community partnerships

This framework can help a community or organization assess what level of collaboration best meets their needs.

Many local communities and organizations work together to share information, services or provide other types of support; often for some of the following reasons:

  • Cost and/or time savings
  • Access to regional or cooperative grants
  • Innovation and new ideas
  • More effective distribution of goods or services
  • Shared responsibility
  • Consistency and credibility
  • Improved performance

Inherent in any partnership are a variety of benefits, risks and interdependencies. To decide the best linkages for a community or organization it is important to understand the level of purpose, structure and process of the partnership (e.g. figure 1), as well as the vision, situation and requirements of the entities contemplating the partnership.

The framework below, created by Teresa Hogue, is an easy to understand guide to help a community or organization determine what level of the partnership is best for them. Each level has its own unique usefulness, dependent on the situation and appropriateness. The goal should not be to reach the highest or most complex level, but instead determine what linkage best fits the group’s purpose.

Figure 1 Community Linkages - Choices and Decisions






* Dialog and common understanding
* Clearinghouse for information
* Create base of support

* Loose/flexible link
* Roles loosely defined
* Community action is primary link among members

* Low key leadership
* Minimal decision making
* Little conflict
* Informal communication

or Alliance

* Match needs and provide coordination
* Limit duplication of services
* Ensure tasks are done

* Central body of people as communication hub
* Semi-formal links
* Roles somewhat defined
* Links are advisory
* Group leverages/raises money

* Facilitative leaders
* Complex decision making
* Some conflict
* Formal communications within the central group

or Partnership

* Share resources to address common issues
* Merge resource base to create something new

* Central body of people consists of decision makers
* Roles defined
* Links formalized
* Group develops new resources and joint budget

* Autonomous leadership but focus in on issue
* Group decision making in central and subgroups
* Communication is frequent and clear


* Share ideas and be willing to pull resources from existing systems
* Develop commitment for a minimum of three years

* All members involved in decision making
* Roles and time defined
* Links formal with written agreement
* Group develops new resources and joint budget

* Shared leadership
* Decision making formal with all members
* Communication is common and prioritized


* Accomplish shared vision and impact benchmarks
* Build interdependent system to address issues and opportunities

* Consensus used in shared decision making
* Roles, time and evaluation formalized
* Links are formal and written in work assignments

* Leadership high, trust level high, productivity high
* Ideas and decisions equally shared
* Highly developed communication

Source: Community Based Collaborations- Wellness Multiplied 1994, Teresa Hogue, Oregon Center for Community Leadership. Used with permission.

Additional information about the foundation of this framework, its common elements and impact measures can be found at Collaboration Framework: Addressing Community Capacity.

Michigan State University Extension offers a variety of community capacity building workshops, including conflict resolution, personality assessment and facilitation