Navigating the Stages of Collaboration

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Dive into the transformative world of collective engagement with Arthur Himmelman’s collaboration stages. His model – progressing from networking to coordination, cooperation, and finally collaboration – is a journey that gradually amplifies trust, risk, and joint decision-making. For program evaluation and capacity-building professionals, Himmelman’s approach is not just a lens to view your work but a super heuristic to move to greater efficiency and impactful change.

Arthur Himmelman’s Four Stages of Collaboration


Networking, the initial stage in Himmelman’s collaboration model, is a process where individuals or groups engage in a simple, low-risk interaction. This stage typically involves sharing information and experiences to build connections for mutual benefit. At this level, parties identify potential joint work opportunities, laying the foundation for future collaborative efforts.

The networking stage is characterized by a casual yet meaningful exchange of knowledge and ideas. While the depth of relationships is minimal at this point, these initial interactions are critical in fostering familiarity and creating a safe space for future cooperation. The time and energy commitment at this stage is usually minimal, making it an accessible starting point for most organizations or individuals.


As networking evolves into coordination, the relationship between parties deepens, and there is an increased sense of purpose. In this stage, groups or individuals modify their activities to align with a shared purpose or goal. They begin to work in sync to avoid duplication of efforts and maximize resource use.

In the coordination phase, the stakeholders start to share a greater responsibility than networking. This implies a higher level of commitment and possibly the initiation of formal agreements or arrangements. Although there is more at stake at this level, the potential for achieving significant outcomes becomes greater.


Cooperation represents a further deepening of the relationship and shared commitment between parties. Not only do they share information and align their activities, but they also share resources to achieve a mutual goal. The parties involved begin to pool their resources, whether financial, human, or other types of assets.

Given the risk involved in sharing resources, this stage necessitates a higher level of trust and openness than previous stages. Organizations at this level commit themselves to each other to a degree that could affect their success. Despite the risks, the potential for achieving shared outcomes and maximizing impact increases at this level, making it a vital step in the collaboration journey.


Collaboration, the final and most intensive stage of Himmelman’s model, entails the full commitment of all parties involved. This stage goes beyond sharing information, aligning activities, and pooling resources; it involves creating a joint system or structure where parties share decision-making power, responsibilities, and the resulting benefits.

At this level, organizations work together to enhance each other’s capacity for mutual benefit and to accomplish a shared vision. This requires a high degree of trust, shared decision-making, and a substantial commitment of time and resources. In this stage, the collaborating entities become interdependent, each contributing to and sharing the successes and challenges of their collective efforts. This stage can lead to profound change and significantly impactful outcomes that would not have been possible through individual efforts.

Implications for Program Evaluation and Capacity Building

Program evaluation involves systematically collecting information about a program’s activities, characteristics, and outcomes to judge the program and improve its effectiveness. By integrating Himmelman’s stages of collaboration, program evaluation can become a far more enriched and transformative process.

Enhanced Data Collection

Effective program evaluation requires a thorough data collection process. As organizations move through Himmelman’s stages, they improve their networking, coordination, cooperation, and collaboration, enhancing their data collection abilities. This leads to richer, more meaningful, and inclusive data, allowing evaluators to make more informed decisions and recommendations.

Improved Stakeholder Engagement

Himmelman’s stages of collaboration provide a roadmap for engaging stakeholders throughout the evaluation process. Building stronger relationships through networking, coordination, and cooperation makes stakeholders more invested in the evaluation’s success. They’re more likely to provide valuable insights, contributing to a more robust and accurate evaluation.

For capacity building, which involves strengthening individuals’ and organizations’ skills, competencies, and abilities, Himmelman’s framework can offer a path for creating more resilient, adaptable, and effective organizations.

Shared Resources and Capacity Enhancement

Organizations share information, activities, and resources by reaching the collaboration stage. This can significantly improve capacity-building efforts, allowing organizations to leverage shared resources for skills development, training, and other capacity-enhancing activities.

Increased Trust and Shared Vision

As organizations progress through Himmelman’s stages, they build trust, establish a shared vision, and foster a culture of collaboration. This environment is conducive to capacity building, encouraging learning, adaptation, and growth.

In conclusion, Arthur Himmelman’s four stages of collaboration offer a comprehensive framework that can significantly enhance program evaluation and capacity-building efforts. By fostering deeper relationships, shared resources, and a common vision, organizations can better assess their performance, make necessary improvements, and build their capacity for future success.