V. Lapaige

Agence de la Santé et des Services Sociaux de la Côte-Nord (CANADA)
For the past decades, collaboration has been recognized as an efficient strategy to help organizations and individuals evolve in complex and turbulent environments. In the 21st century, as complexity is increased by the diversity and the distributed nature of the people, groups, and knowledge sources and by the knowledge integration processes involved, novel collective endeavors are now required to match the complexity in the environment so as to solve existing problems or structure new development. Such reality emphasizes the need for a new and increasingly prevalent type of collaboration - complex collaborations - emerging namely in the form of networks, partnerships, strategic alliances, public-private interfaces, etc. Collaboration becomes complex when it crosses boundaries of distance, disciplines, organizations/institutions, nations and/or cultures. Hence, in this knowledge economy era, being able to retrieve, integrate, convert, transfer and implement knowledge across such boundaries is paramount to achieve optimal knowledge translation objectives, namely in the new field of the ''Plan Nord’s health'' (Quebec, Canada). The strategic and significant importance of complex collaborations in the aforementioned field is twofold: (1) First, in terms of knowledge production, which increasingly calls for collaboration among scientists from various disciplinary backgrounds, institutions, and nations, given Nord Plan's ecoHealth research is dominated by complex problems, rapid technological changes and knowledge advances, as well as highly specialized domains of expertise; (2) Second, in terms of knowledge translation, namely through education, training, negotiation and cooperation with various actors in the public sector, the general population, the NGOs and the private sector, in local as well as global communities, as to communicate new knowledge, provide general information, increase awareness of other cultural values, promote change in the public’s perception of the impact on the health of northern populations of development projects under the Nord Plan, modify professional practice, enlighten decision making, and develop new professional competencies in Plan Nord-related health. However, whatever the focus of interest, complex collaborations are difficult to achieve and highly prone to failure, as they are fraught with obstacles related to the inherently high diversity that characterizes them. Hence, working in boundary-crossing contexts involves combining different practices, worldviews, interests, ideologies, theories, methods, languages, norms and/or values. These, in turn, generate high potential for ambiguity, misunderstanding, confusion, divergent goals, conflict, reduced understanding and learning, preconceptions, stereotypes as well as disciplinary, cultural and organizational silos. Effective collaboration dynamics are at the core of learning, knowledge exchange and innovation processes. This paper will discuss the challenges and obstacles of complex collaborations pertaining to the Plan Nord’s health knowledge production and translation, and suggest promising evidence-based avenues for promoting efficiency and success of complex collaborations in this new field.