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Joining The Circle – Identifying Key Ingredients for Effective Police Collaboration within Indigenous Communities

Press Release


Opportunities for improving the safety and well-being of communities in Canada partially lie within the relationships that police have with citizens, leaders, and other human service providers (Lang et al., 2009; Rajaee et al., 2013; Skogan, 2006). This is especially true in First Nation, Métis, and Inuit (hereafter referred to as Indigenous) communities, where the importance of strong police-community relations is undeniable (Cunneen, 2007; Griffiths & Clark, 2017; Linden, 2005).

One of the major challenges impacting safety and well-being in Indigenous communities is violence against women and girls (Brennan, 2009; Kwan, 2015). While violence on its own is a serious harm, the occurrence of violence further impacts victim employment (Reeves & O’Leary-Kelly, 2007), feelings of safety (Johnson & Dawson, 2011), physical health (Vos et al., 2006) and life satisfaction (Statistics Canada, 2009), among other hardships. At the community level, violence impacts stability in housing (Kirkby & Mettler, 2016), education (Lloyd, 2018), mental wellness (Statistics Canada, 2009), service access (AuCoin & Beauchamp, 2007) and economic outcomes (Zhang et al., 2013), among other community safety and well-being indicators.

Scholars of violence (Brownridge, 2008) find Indigenous women are, on average, four times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. Much of this is linked to the disproportionate accumulation of risk factors for violence that Indigenous women experience (Burnette & Renner, 2017; Pearce et al., 2015). Another contributor to this disproportion is that Indigenous women face multiple barriers in accessing help and support in both violence intervention and prevention (Davis & Taylor, 2002; Kurtz et al., 2013).

Police in Canada have an opportunity to work collaboratively with Indigenous communities to move upstream and address both the root causes of violence, as well as identify and resolve barriers to prevention/intervention services and support that Indigenous women face (Chrismas, 2016; Griffiths, 2019). While this pathway is not always clear or easy, there are opportunities for police to improve their policies, practices, and processes when engaging Indigenous communities. According to some experts (Chrismas, 2012), improved communication, community engagement, and empowerment can better align police agencies with the values of Indigenous people. This in turn, can have a positive impact on both police-community relations and community safety and well-being outcomes.

The purpose of this paper is to identify the key ingredients, techniques, challenges, and opportunities for police professionals to engage in effective collaboration within Indigenous communities. The consultations and data gathered for this paper identify how police involvement in information-sharing and collaboration with various Indigenous human service sectors can help reduce barriers, establish trust for police, and reduce violence against women and girls.

Key components of different multi-sector collaborative models were explored in preparation for writing this paper. Using a lens of opportunities and key ingredients, the analysis of data captured through this project identified leading police practices, skills and commitments that can be enhanced through tools, programs, and future policies for provincial, Indigenous and federal government. The intent of this paper is to not only inform the future but strengthen and validate existing efforts to improve police-Indigenous relations. The opportunities identified in this project show great potential for helping police professionals become successful in joining the circle and become an important part of Indigenous communities in Canada.

The next section of this report begins with a background on the project, including a presentation of key objectives and outcomes, major research questions, and an explanation for how the entire project was guided by Indigenous communities. Following the background section is an overview of three key literature areas. They include: violence against Indigenous women, barriers that Indigenous women face, and collaborative opportunities for police to help reduce the risks and barriers associated with violence against Indigenous women and girls. Next, the methodology of this study involves a comparative model analysis, researcher observations, and interviews with key respondent groups: community stakeholders, topic experts, and collaborative model participants. Findings of this research are organized by the original research questions posed. Finally, the key deliverable in this paper is a list of actionable recommendations that police administrators, government leaders, and frontline professionals can implement in order to effectively collaborate with Indigenous communities in a way that reduces violence against women and girls.


The impetus of this project can be traced back to Public Safety Canada’s response to the interim recommendations of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019). Under its Policy Development Contribution Program, Public Safety Canada announced funding opportunities to support research that contributes to cooperation between police services, social service providers and Indigenous peoples. The intent was for funded research to “inform the development of tools and resources which, once complete, will be made available to police services throughout Canada to enable the delivery of culturally competent police services to Indigenous peoples” (Public Safety Canada, 2019: 1).

As a major contributor to linkages between research, practice and policy in Canada, Community Safety Knowledge Alliance (CSKA) submitted a proposal for funding in March of 2019. By May of 2019, CSKA signed a contribution agreement with Public Safety Canada to undertake this project. This paper serves as the final deliverable outlined in the agreement. Work for this project commenced in May and was completed in November of 2019.

2.1 Objectives & Outcomes

This project was driven by several objectives originally outlined in the proposal, and reinforced during preliminary and interim reporting activities to Public Safety Canada. They include:

  • Identify areas of police policy and practice requiring improvement;
  • Identify successful models of multi-sector collaboration that reduce violence against Indigenous peoples;
  • Determine key ingredients, traits and skill-sets that contribute to positive police-Indigenous relations;
  • Prepare recommendations that support the development of tools and resources for police (and other human service professionals) to use in improving collaborative opportunities to reduce violence against Indigenous people.

The objectives for this project were designed to help produce three intended outcomes. These include:

  • Enhanced awareness of key challenges in police-Indigenous relations, together with the identification of key mitigating strategies and tactics;
  • Improved understanding of, and commitment to, adopting multi-sector collaboration within an Indigenous context;
  • Knowledge of opportunities to reduce violence against Indigenous people through effective multi-sector collaboration.

2.2 Work Plan

To begin working on these objectives, the authors designed a project work plan that spanned the duration of the project. Various components of the work plan were dependent upon completion of other components in the plan. To outline each of these activities, Table 1 lists each activity, provides a description of the activity, and a timeline.

Table 1. Joining the Circle Project Work Plan
Mobilize Partners Engaged Indigenous partners and multi-sector collaboration stakeholders in project planning and design. May
Establish Project Questions Utilized feedback and guidance from Indigenous partners to create research questions. May
Determine Approach Finalized goals of project and developed strategy for pursuing the research questions. Jun
Initial Reporting Submitted preliminary outline of project and initial cashflow. Jun
Conduct Literature Review Examined variety of literature types and sources to determine case examples and common practices. Jun – Jul
Develop Consultative Methodology Prepared process for data collection and analysis. Jun
Conduct Initial Outreach Reached out to stakeholders for coordination of dialogue, refinement of approach, and suggestions of respondents. Jul
Finalize Data Tools Prepared tools for data collection during consultative process. Jul
Conduct Consultations Gathered observations, feedback, suggestions from Indigenous communities, subject matter experts, and key stakeholders. Jul – Nov
Secondary Reporting Submitted interim activity report, cashflow and financial statement. Aug
Model Analysis Assessed collaborative human service models on criteria determined through consultation process. Sep – Oct
Collaboration Observations Made observations of collaborative models and practices involving police partners. Sep – Nov
Organize Data Separate and organize data as it arrives. Jul – Nov
Analyse Data Analyze data gathered during research project. Nov
Prepare Report Prepare evidence and outline recommendations for improving police-Indigenous relations. Nov
Final Reporting Submit final cashflow statement, final financial statement, final activity report, and final report to Public Safety Canada. Nov

2.3 Indigenous Guidance

To deliver an appropriate and effective resource for police in Canada, the research team included Indigenous guidance starting at the proposal stage and continuing through to the end of the project—where recommendations were made. To secure this guidance, the authors approached three separate guidance cohorts of Indigenous human service delivery. The first were Elders, staff and community members of Muskoday First Nation—a Cree and mixed tribe community in plains country. This cohort has multiple experiences developing collaborative human service models with police. The second guidance cohort were Elders, community members, and staff of English River First Nation—a Dënesųłiné community in the Northern forests. This cohort also has experience collaborating with police on multiple projects in their community. The third guidance cohort included Elders, staff, and community members belonging to Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association. This organization works to reduce violence against Indigenous women and girls, while also improving the resilience of Indigenous families to various forms of vulnerability (e.g., HIV, unemployment, criminality, overdose, homelessness, poverty).

Members of the guidance cohorts were approached for feedback and guidance at the proposal, planning, data collection, and results preparation stages of this project. Interaction with the guidance cohorts occurred through face-to-face visits, conference calls, and videoconferencing. Members of the guidance cohorts not only helped shape the methods and approach, but also provided insight into some of the themes, challenges, and trends appearing in the research. Another benefit of the guidance cohorts was their assistance in identifying and accessing interview respondents. Feedback from members of the guidance cohorts indicated that their participation in this project was “meaningful and motivating”. Several of the guidance cohort members provided additional insight during the data collection stage (i.e., interviews).

2.4 Research Questions

Several key questions guided this research project. These questions were developed following consultations with the project’s Indigenous guidance cohorts, reflection on the original project proposal, and examination of the key literature areas that were most relevant to the project. To assist in organizing efforts required by the project, the research questions are organized into four key themes (see Table 2).

Table 2. Research Questions by Theme
Defining the Problem 1. What conditions or barriers contribute to increased vulnerability of women and girls to violence in Indigenous communities?
2. What police-related challenges impact efforts to reduce vulnerability and barriers to support for women and girls in Indigenous communities?
Identifying Solutions 3. What opportunities are there for police to contribute to a reduction in vulnerability and barriers to support?
4. What past community experiences can we learn from to inform future directions for police-Indigenous community relations?
5. Moving forward, what are the key ingredients for effective collaboration among police, human service providers and Indigenous peoples?
Recommendations 6. What key features and characteristics of future police tools and resources would best contribute to a reduction in vulnerability to violence among Indigenous women and girls?


To begin answering the research questions, several different bodies of literature were examined for insight and direction. The first of these is the literature exploring violence that impacts Indigenous women and girls. The review highlights some risk factors connected to violence, as well as the barriers impacting women at-risk for or already exposed to violence. Within the discussion on barriers facing Indigenous women is a sub-section on police-related challenges. A description of the different contributing factors to violence, along with barriers to support, show the need for police involvement in multi-sector collaboration. Exploring this further, the literature review then examines key concepts, practices, and approaches to multi-sector collaboration in human service delivery. This is followed by a review of collaborative models and key ingredients for collaboration mentioned in the literature.

3.1 Violence Impacting Indigenous Women and Girls

Violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada is a significant national concern (Government of Canada, 2014). In 2009, a Statistics Canada survey found that Indigenous women were almost three times more likely to be violently victimized than non-Indigenous women. The majority of these women were between 15 and 34 years of age, and reported experiencing multiple episodes of violence (Statistics Canada, 2012).

According to the RCMP (2014), despite the fact that Indigenous women make up four percent of Canada’s population, they represent 16 percent of all murdered women in Canada, and 12 percent of all missing women on record. This disproportion can be explained in part by an elevated risk of partner violence for Indigenous women compared to non-Indigenous women in Canada (Brownridge, 2008; Daud, et al., 2013; Kirkup, 2016; Pederson, Malcoe & Pulkingham, 2013).

An examination of the literature on risk factors for violence against Indigenous women revealed a wide range of determinants. Some of the personal risks include alcohol use (Clough et al., 2014), drug use (Pearce et al., 2015), low emotional control (Jewell & Wormith, 2010), poor communication skills (Burnette & Hefflinger, 2017), poor physical health (Bianchi et al., 2014), and cognitive limitations (Keeling & van Wormer, 2011). Some of the risks considered to be more situational in nature, include historical oppression (Burnette & Hefflinger, 2017), parent alcohol abuse (Burnette, 2016), economic insecurity (Daoud et al., 2013), geographic isolation (Varcoe & Dick, 2013), low income (Burnette & Renner, 2017), and past exposure to violence (Abraham & Tastsoglou, 2016). Additional risks include infidelity, family conflict, and poor mental health (Collins et al, 2002).

3.2 Barriers to Services and Support

One of the main concerns of this research is the barriers Indigenous women face when reaching out for support because they are at-risk for or have been exposed to violence. According to some researchers (Davis & Taylor, 2002), Indigenous women are often “invisible”, which makes recognizing barriers impacting Indigenous women even more challengingFootnote1 . Others (Kurtz et al., 2013) argue that many Indigenous women do not access services because they feel their voices are silenced. Much of this is rooted in the deep effects of colonialism, which undermine both efforts to prevent violence, as well as efforts to support women impacted by violence (Kwan, 2015).

According to service providers working to reduce violence against women (Muskoday Community Health Centre, 2012), the consequence of this history is a deeply embedded social devaluing of Aboriginal women in Canada. In pre-colonial times, despite having different roles within society, Aboriginal men and women were generally regarded as equals. With European settlers also came the introduction of patriarchal and hierarchical systems of power. This is evident through the administration of Western policies such as The Indian Act. According to some observers (National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, 2006) “The Indian Act was particularly harsh on Native women. It imposed male-lineage and wrote male-female inequality into law” (p.12). The Indian Act formally justified the subordination of women in Aboriginal societies. Most reserve communities in Canada are still under the authority of the Indian Act, though some communities have taken steps to reduce the power differential and increase equality between men and women at the organizational/institutional level. However, there is still much more work that needs to be done as patriarchy and male domination is powerful and persistent across Canada and women’s struggle for equality is continually undermined (Pederson, Malcoe & Pulkingham, 2013).

The impact of gender differences has created a lot of additional barriers for women. These barriers come in four different types. These include personal, situational, systemic, and community-based (Ooshtaa, 2019). The following subsections further explain each barrier type.

Personal Barriers

Personal barriers include barriers that stem from an individual’s skills, abilities, personality, capacity, and behaviour. Some of the more common personal barriers impacting women who are at-risk for or who have been exposed to violence include distrust of service providers (Setting the Stage, 2013), lack of confidence in the police or justice system (Cao, 2014), low self esteem (University of Michigan, 2009), poor communication skills (Hegarty & Taft, 2001), anxiety accessing support from others (Narasimha et al., 2018), lack of awareness of services in the community (Du Mont et al., 2017), reluctance of victims to ask for help (Davis & Taylor, 2002), and cognitive limitations (Keeling & van Wormer, 2011).

Situational Barriers

Situational barriers include circumstances about or related to the individual which affect their ability to engage in services. Unlike ‘personal barriers’, they do not pertain to the individual, but rather about things going on around them (Ooshtaa, 2019). Some examples include lack of childcare (Burman, Smailes & Chantler, 2004), transportation (Setting the Stage, 2013), geographic isolation (Griffiths, 2019), financial ability (Burman & Chantler, 2005), and lack of family support (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2011).

Systemic Barriers

Systemic barriers involve certain obstacles and challenges that are attributable to some sort of design feature, structure, rule, capacity, policy, or other element of the human service system (Dylan, Regehr & Alaggia, 2008). Common examples include wait-times (Ooshtaa, 2019), long and intrusive intake procedures (Setting the Stage, 2013), demanding admission requirements and steep entrance thresholds (Nilson & Okanik, 2016), limited service hours (Setting the Stage, 2013), a lack of resources (Daoud et al., 2013), un-coordination of existing resources (Aboriginal Affairs & Northern Development Canada, 2012), a lack of privacy and anonymity in small communities (Nilson & Okanik, 2016), ineffective services (Iyengar & Sabik, 2009), and barriers for victims when trying to find support.

One of the more challenging systemic barriers for women is conflicting approaches between support delivery models in the violence, mental health, and addiction sectors. According to Haskell (2010), while violence against women services are often based in feminist frameworks that advocate empowerment and social justice, health services such as addiction support often emphasize individual accountability. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation (2011), priorities between the three sectors may also differ, with support for violence focusing on safety, addictions services focused on sobriety, and mental health services on stabilization. Without recognition of the connections between violence, mental health, and substance use—services and supports are unlikely to meet the needs of survivors.

Another major systemic barrier for women exposed to violence is that many support services (e.g., shelters, therapy, respite) are limited to those women who are clean and sober. Research shows a multi-directional relationship between violence, mental health issues, and substance abuse (Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2011; Haskell, 2010; Rossiter, 2011). As such, blanket restrictions for women seeking support based solely on mental wellness and/or substance use are essentially denying women support due to their symptoms of violence and/or attempts to cope with their environment (Setting the Stage, 2013). In turn, women exposed to violence may feel that they are being negatively judged for responding to violence in the way they choose. For some women, this judgement may be experienced as yet another form of disempowerment (BC Society of Transition Houses, 2011).

A final systemic barrier is turnover among service provider staff. Helpers are at risk of experiencing compassion fatigue, burnout, and vicarious/secondary trauma (Ferencik & Ramirez-Hammond, 2011; McEvoy & Ziegler, 2006). Vicarious trauma is strongly associated with higher rates of illness, sick leave, and staff turnover. Vicarious trauma may also contribute to lower morale in the workplace and lower productivity (Ferencik & Ramirez-Hammond, 2011). All of these pressures impact the quality and availability of care for women at-risk for or exposed to violence.

Social Barriers

When it comes to social barriers, perhaps the two most impactful barriers are stigma and shame. As Haskell (2010) argues, disclosing victimization of violence may bring shame, not only to the woman, but to her family as well, which prevents many women from seeking support. Many victims would prefer to heal in private, behind dark glasses and closed curtains. According to some experts (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2011), their physical pain is more bearable than the shame and humiliation they are experiencing.

A third major social barrier to accessing support is fear. It is common for women and girls who have been abused to live in a high level of justifiable fear due to ongoing violence. Female victims of violence may fear leaving their partner due to increased chances that the violence will continue or even escalate (Hotten, 2001). Women may fear that no one will believe them and/or they will be judged by family and friends (Narasimha et al, 2018). They may have a fear of losing control through engagement with the justice system and, therefore, be reluctant to work with the police and the courts. Mothers may fear being seen as a ‘bad mother’ if their children witnessed the abuse. They may also fear the possibility of having their children apprehended by child protection services if they access support. Finally, women may fear potential changes in lifestyle if they no longer remain in their relationship (Setting the Stage, 2013).

Two additional common social barriers to accessing supports include denial and normalization of violence. From a community perspective, there is still a great tendency for people to ignore what happens behind closed doors. While theft, child abuse, or even animal cruelty might quickly be reported to appropriate officials, violence against women may not always be reported (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2011). From a victim perspective, normalization occurs through a process of rationalizing the violence, and blaming stress, substances, or financial difficulties for acts of violence towards them. On top of all this internal normalization, a perpetrator may make promises that the violence will never happen again. As part of the ‘cycle of violence’, many women and girls want to believe this to be true (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2011).

Community Barriers

When it comes to addressing problems of violence on-reserve, there are several challenges which make the process more difficult than addressing violence off-reserve. These challenges stem largely from most on-reserve communities having small populations (Government of Canada, 2004), geographic isolation (Griffiths, 2019), long histories of violence (Griffiths & Clark, 2017), a lack of resources (Bopp, Bopp & Lane, 2003), considerable social and economic problems (Assembly of First Nations, 2007), and drug and alcohol use (Gelles & Cavanaugh, 2005). Attempts to reduce these barriers are challenging, largely because they extend beyond the reach of most violence intervention and prevention programs. According to some observers (Guggisberg, 2019), the best approach to reduce community barriers are through culturally-appropriate methods designed with and supported by local community stakeholders.

3.2.1 Police-Related Barriers

At the centre of this research project is the question of how police-related circumstances may serve as barriers to services and support for Indigenous women at-risk or exposed to violence. A review of the literature identified four types of police-related barriers. Considering the small size of most Indigenous communities, each of these barriers can be widely felt, and in-turn, can have long-term implications for the members of these communities (Jones et al., 2014).

Police Perception

The first barrier identified in the literature concerned police perceptions of Indigenous communities and of Indigenous women. According to research on this topic (Lithopoulos & Ruddell, 2011), the perception that police have of individuals impacts their approach to each situation. In the case of victims to violence, for example, police support for victims is often contingent on the severity of injury (Campbell, 1998), credibility (Frohman, 1991), sexual history (Campbell, 2006), and substance use (Campbell 2006). Another determinant of police support for victims is the officer’s own stereotypes of Indigenous people (Neugebauer, 2000). According to Palmater (2016), racism and sexism among policing professionals is a reality in Canada. These stereotypes have major implications for violence against Indigenous women—including the way in which victims of violence approach the judicial process (Dylan, Regehr & Alaggia, 2008).

A contributor to these stereotypes is the actual policing environment within which officers stationed in Indigenous communities must work in. Results of the Ipperwash Inquiry indicate that the reasons that community policing models are challenged in Indigenous communities is because of “the placement of officers from outside the community, people with little knowledge, little sensitivity and even less interest in knowing the residents, the lack of trust between police and members of the community, and, the high crime rates that force police with limited resources to focus on responding to problems, with virtually no time for prevention” (Human Sector Resources, 2004: 9).

Public Perception

The second type of police-related barrier impacting services and support for Indigenous women at-risk of or exposed to violence is public perception. According to Cao (2014), Indigenous people have lower level of trust and confidence in police. This sense of distrust can lead to a lack of cooperation with police investigations and the perception and experience that police officers are indifferent to the plight of victims. This is particularly problematic in cases involving domestic violence and sexual assault (McGillivray & Comaskey, 1999).

Another factor in public perception of police is the outcomes of police work in Indigenous communities. According to Rhoad (2013), police failures to protect Indigenous women and girls from violence and violent behavior add to longstanding tensions between police and Indigenous communities. The lack of success in protecting victims of violence further undermines police efforts to build positive relationships with community members.

Policing Structure

The third type of police-related barrier concerns the structure and design of policing services in Canada. Most Indigenous communities are policed by a provincial policing service (e.g., Ontario Provincial Police, Sureté du Québec) or the RCMP in all other provinces and territoriesFootnote2 . By being organized on a provincial or national scale, police officers are often transferred between different detachments every few years. This mobility challenges the ability of police officers to develop lasting relationships that are important for effective violence prevention/intervention (Lithopoulos, 2015).

Another structural issue is the size of detachment areas within which Indigenous communities are located. Since most Indigenous communities have small populations, not only are a small number of officers assigned to each community, but those officers are also assigned to also police other communities in the area. Due to the high visibility of police activity in these communities, everyone sees and knows what the police are doing. This high visibility brings significant consequence to small detachments who are quite often only seen under negative circumstances (e.g., arrest, fight breakup) (Griffiths, 2016).

Reporting Violence

Another police-related challenge involves the reporting of violence to police. Generally, many occurrences of violence are never actually reported to police (Status of Women Canada, 2019). Those incidents which are reported, most often involve serious violence, an intoxicated offender, or child witnesses. These more complicated situations, while certainly important to address, usually involve some degree of mandated services. When services are mandated, there tends to be less opportunity for multiple human service providers to collaborate with one another in helping the victim and perpetrator (Nilson, 2014).

Another challenge with violence being reported to the police is that it is often very limited to a smaller cohort of victims. An Australian study (Voce & Boxall, 2018) of violence reporting showed that victims who are female, non-white, experiencing frequent violence and who have been abused in the past, are more likely to report. Unfortunately, Indigenous women who are just newly at-risk or who have limited exposure to violence, tend to report less. This marks a lost opportunity to support women and girls upstream prior to violence becoming a regular occurrence in their life (Before it Happens, 2019).

A third challenge with reporting of violence is that it can negatively impact public opinion of the police. According to Griffiths and Clark (2017), under-reporting of violence to the police undermines police ability to prevent or intervene in escalations of risk to violence. When this occurs, it not only impacts collaboration with the community, but it suggests that police are indifferent to the plight of victims. Fueling this under-reporting further, is a distrust for the police that is often tied to police inability to successfully reduce violence in communities (McGillivray & Comaskey, 1999).


As the above literature review identified, geographic isolation, social conditions, a history of distrust of the police, combined with the structure through which police services are delivered in Canada, can present significant challenges to the safety and well-being of Indigenous communities. However, the unique characteristics of Indigenous communities provide police with opportunities in multi-sector collaboration that can help communities overcome many of these barriers (Griffiths, 2019). Supporting this claim, Chrismas (2016) proposes that the pathway to enhancing positive relations between police and Indigenous communities is through increased multi-sectoral collaboration around social problems.

Collaboration scholars (Agranoff & McGuire, 2003) argue that multi-sector collaboration is an effective approach for addressing a variety of social problems. In fact, much of what we know about risk factors for violence concern the risk factors of these other social problems (Barton, Watkins & Jarjoura, 1997). In fact, other researchers (Echenberg & Jensen, 2009; Newcomb & Felix-Ortiz, 1992; Shader, 2003) suggest that various risk factors for individual harms are not only related to one another but combine to have a cumulative effect. The composite nature of risk for those individuals and families most affected by social problems has prompted several observers (Amuyunzu-Nyamongo, 2010; Hammond, et al., 2006; Huang et al., 2009; Pronk, Peek & Goldstein, 2004) to advocate for multi-disciplinary approaches to addressing the needs of individuals presenting with composite risk.

Additional research shows multi-sector collaborative approaches to improve social outcomes in the areas of sexual exploitation (Clayton et al., 2013), sexual health (Landers et al., 2011), community school support (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2010), youth development (Barton, Watkins & Jarjoura, 1997; Hernandez-Cordero et al., 2011), population aging (Hee Chee, 2006), child protection (Darlington & Feeney, 2008), health promotion (de Vries et al., 2008), home care (Dodd et al., 2010), special needs education (Farmakopolous, 2002), community-based mental health (Fieldhouse, 2012), housing (George et al., 2008), disease epidemics (Thomson et al., 2016), addictions (Treno & Holder, 2002), primary health (Lewis, 2005), employment support (Lindsay, McQuaid & Dutton, 2008), and of course, violence (Banks et al., 2009).

Collaboration among human service professionals is described as “an interpersonal process through which members of different disciplines contribute to a common product or goal” (Berg-Weger & Schneider, 1998: 98). Some (Claiborne and Lawson, 2005) add that collaboration is a form of collective action that involves multiple agencies working together to address mutually-dependent needs and complex problems. Others (Bronstein, 2003: 299) explain that collaboration is a partnership process that involves “interdependence, newly-created professional activities, flexibility, collective ownership of goals and reflection on process”.

Success of collaborative relationships requires much more than simply mutual interest of the partners. Some of the key determinants of successful collaboration include past experience with collaboration (Daley, 2009), the design and function of the collaborative process (Bolland & Wilson, 1995), knowledge among the partners (Boughzala & Briggs, 2012), communication patterns (Broom & Avanzino, 2010), marketing of the collaborative (Austin, 2008), organizational characteristics of the partners (Lehman et al., 2009), trust between partners (Weaver, 2017) and both non-spatial and geographic proximity of partners to one another (Knoben & Oerlemans, 2006).

Once collaboration begins to occur, the partners begin to experience a number of benefits. According to Kaye & Crittenden (2005), collaboration legitimates an issue, attracts broader support, and creates new synergies. Another benefit of collaboration is that it helps to close service gaps and increases the capacity of the partners involved (Nowell & Foster-Fishman, 2011). Perhaps the most common benefits of multi-sector collaboration include the broadened understanding of an issue (Sanford et al., 2007) and the diversified knowledge and skills to address the issue more effectively (Hulme & Toye, 2005).

While there are several documented benefits of multi-sector collaboration, challenges also exist. Some of the more common challenges mentioned in the literature on multi-sector collaboration include differences in prioritization between the partners (Margolis & Runyan, 1998); barriers to information sharing (Munetz & Teller, 2004); power and autonomy to fulfill obligations (Byles, 1985); difficulties with shared measurement (Davis, 2014); and the general costs of collaboration itself (e.g. time, funding) (Kaye & Crittenden, 2005).

To overcome these challenges, there is value in being mindful of key ingredients suggested for multi-sector collaboration models. Following a study of 126 collaboratives involving criminal justice professionals in Canada, Nilson (2018) identified and categorized several ingredients into five main themes. These include: partnership, process, commitment, resources and perspective. Table 3 lists these ingredients under each theme.

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