GAO has identified a set of practices that can help the federal, state, local, and private sectors collaborate effectively—including defining common outcomes and agreeing on roles and responsibilities.
Achieving important national outcomes (such as food safety, economic development, environmental restoration, and planning for and responding to a pandemic) requires the coordinated efforts of the federal government, state and local governments, nonprofits, and the private sector.
Federal agencies face a range of challenges and barriers when they try to work collaboratively. However, they can enhance and sustain their collaborative efforts by engaging in the following practices:
- Define and articulate a common outcome
- Establish mutually reinforcing or joint strategies.
- Identify and address needs by leveraging resources.
- Agree on roles and responsibilities.
- Establish compatible policies, procedures, and other means to operate across agency boundaries.
- Develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on results.
- Reinforce agency accountability for collaborative efforts through agency plans and reports.
- Reinforce individual accountability for collaborative efforts through performance management systems.
Additionally, federal agencies have used a variety of mechanisms to implement interagency collaborative efforts—such as the President appointing a coordinator, agencies co-locating within one facility, and interagency task forces. These mechanisms can address things like policy development, program implementation, oversight and monitoring, information sharing and communication, and building organizational capacity (e.g., staffing and training). Agencies often use more than one mechanism to address an issue.
Although these mechanisms differ in complexity and scope, they all have certain key features, which raise issues to consider when implementing them.