Theorizing Principled Collaboration


Heath RG, Isbell MG. Theorizing Principled Collaboration. Communication Theory [Internet]. 2020.


Interorganizational collaboration is often at the crux of making decisions that impact and are impacted by inherent tensions of the human experience. Many theoretical models and literature reviews conceptualize collaboration through a teleological lens where being "good" is tied to accomplishing the collaboration's goals. In this essay, we broaden the understanding of collaboration problematizing what is meant by a good outcome. We propose collaboration is a principled activity with associated processes and outcomes and advance three arguments. First, that collaboration when viewed as a principled activity changes our understanding of collaborative processes and the way we might evaluate collaborative outcomes. Second, that dialogue operates as "ethical practice" and is woven through communication in collaboration that facilitates principles such as legitimacy, accountability, and shared power. Third, a principled lens of collaboration further develops the principled negotiation process, problematizing so-called objective criteria for decision making. This essay begins by attending to certain principles associated with collaboration processes. We review the experience of communication in collaboration as being oriented toward dialogue, interests, conflict, consensus, and solutions. Building on the ways in which communication is oriented to in collaboration, we use an empirical example to posit the importance of conceptualizing and evaluating collaboration as principled. By directing attention to principles as an important component of collaboration, scholars are positioned to recognize useful responses and the implications of those responses for collaborating.

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Last updated on 05/03/2022