Ending a Collaboration or Coalition




Termination is defined as the point when the collaboration/coalition ends its active organizational life. Since coalitions are dynamic and fluid entities, the point of transition from the Maintenance Phase to the Termination Phase is not always clear-cut. Sometimes a decision is formally made to end;  if funded, the project ends when the grant runs out or the products are delivered.  More often,  termination occurs by default over time -- the momentum slows, commitment wanes, contributions cease. 


It  is time for a collaboration to end when:


·             it has accomplished what it set out to do

·             the grant or contract supporting the collaboration has reached an end

·             participation wanes and meetings lack a purpose and sense of direction

·             the collaboration failed to achieve its goals, and the members do not want to stay together to try something else

·             resources are diminishing and maintaining the effort is consuming too much energy for too few results.


If these signs are evident, collaboration leaders need to be cognizant of the following:

·         understand that some realignments in the collaboration are inevitable over time

·         evaluate the nature and consequences of the changes occurring

·         recognize that a transition is taking place and that the collaboration may be moving into a new form

·         do not equate termination with failure, or longevity with success -- don't try to continue when it is time to quit

·             recognize that termination may mean that present work is concluded or the collaboration has gone about as far as it can go.




Termination may occur for several reasons:

·             the collaboration has achieved one or more of its goals

·             it has failed to achieve its goals

·             it has been transformed into another interorganizational entity (e.g. a federation, council, new merged agency)

·             it loses credibility or fails to gain legitimation.




Collaboration success is usually defined as 1) achieving goals; 2) attaining longevity;  3) gaining recognition and legitimacy, and 4) meeting the needs of members.  Please refer to Chapter 14: Collaboration Success for more details.


Collaborations frequently terminate because they have succeeded in what they were formed to do.




Failure is usually defined in relation to success.  Where success is defined as achieving goals, failure is defined as the inability to achieve goals, or to implement plans.  Where success is achieving recognition, failure is not achieving recognition or legitimacy.  Where success is longevity, failure is an inability to sustain the effort.  Where success is meeting the needs of members, failure is not meeting those needs.  Therefore it is important for the collaboration to develop measures of success and periodically assess its accomplishments and strengths as well as weaknesses, to ensure that they are on target.  Please refer to Chapter 15: Collaboration Failure for more details.





A collaboration may decide to go into a dormant period, agreeing to suspend meetings.  If so, this transition should be marked by holding a celebratory event, and exchanging mailing lists to keep the members in contact with each other.  Groups that terminate by agreement have a better chance to maintain relationships and resurrect networks when a critical issue is identified or "the right time" arrives.


If the decision is made to continue, possibly in another form, it is helpful to do certain things to sustain the collaborative effort:


       review past structure, process, membership, and issues in order to clarify what will be replicated or changed in the new  or revised effort.


       redefine success, goals, and strategies, establishing realistic expectations.  Suggestion:  Hold a “visioning” session or retreat for the collaboration leadership or membership to regroup and  plan for the future.


       replenish or revise  membership and resources that will be needed for the continued effort.


       revamp operating and membership structure so that they are appropriate for future or current plans.