Collaborative Problem-Solving Terms and Resources

Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Community-Based Strategy
Community Problem-Solving (CPS) Approach
Terms and Examples of Resources
These definitions are offered to illustrate the core principles that the Foundation seeks to promote
collaborative, inclusive and resourceful processes. There is a longstanding field of literature that speaks to these and many related ideas and principles, and we have listed some of these resources here. Please note that no single model or workbook or framework is perfect – in general, nor for your community. In sharing these resources, the Foundation is not endorsing any one way of advancing community problem-solving. Rather, we want you to be aware that there are lots of resources to draw on that might advance your thinking and help you determine if your work aligns with our core principles.
Term Definition Resource Example
Collaborative/ Collaboration A true joint effort, with clear collective purpose, with partners willing to share ownership,decision-making, and a role in implementation as they pursue an innovation together.
  • Mattessich, Paul, Johnson, Kirsten, Collaboration: What Makes It Work, Fieldstone Alliance, 2018
  • Kania, John, Kramer, Mark, "Collective Impact", Stanford Social Innovation Review, Issue: Winter 2011

*Collective Impact is a very popular term today that refers to types of collaboration.  The Collective Impact Forum has numerous resources on the subject, many of which are useful.   It is important to consider that not all collective impact efforts are community driven or highly inclusive. This reference as a broad resource but, as with all these resources, not prescriptive.

Collaborative Problem-Solving Collaborative problem-solving initiatives are efforts that bring people together, within and across communities, to work towards a common goal. Collaborative problem-solving processes lead to inclusive, equitable and sustainable solutions, including increasing understanding of an issue, generating ideas, and/or testing and implementing inclusive, equitable and sustainable solutions to community challenges and opportunities.
Inclusive Meaningfully engaging key stakeholders, thoughtfully identifying those needed to create the intended change and, whenever possible, including those directly affected by the problem.
Authentic Engagement; Community Driven The focus and direction for responses to community challenges emanate from the community and include engaging those affected by the challenges as well as other community stakeholders.
  • Block, Peter Book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009
Racial Equity An analytical framework that acknowledges the impact of structural and institutional racism and proactively develops strategies and systems aimed at mitigating its effects on society. If achieved, one's racial identity no longer serves as a predictor of one’s life outcomes.
Innovation Innovation generally refers to changing processes or creating more effective processes, products and ideas. Being innovative does not only mean inventing. Innovation can mean changing your business model and adapting to changes in your environment to deliver better products or services.
Resourceful Processes Using existing resources and assets creatively to make the most of what a community already has.  This concept also refers to ensuring that the effort can be sustained over time and beyond funding from ZSR.
  • Winer, Michael, Ray, Karen, Collaboration Handbook: Creating, Sustaining and Enjoying the Journey, Fieldstone Alliance, Turner Publishing, 2012
Community Asset A community asset (or community resource, a very similar term) is anything that can be used to improve the quality of community life, including the skills of community residents, natural resources, community amenities, local culture, etc.

What is Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)?

  • Kretzmann John, McKnight, John, Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets, ACTA Publications,1993