To Collaborate… or Not? 

By Rosemary O’Leary
University of Kansas School of Public Affairs


Collaboration can be a smart leadership and management strategy, yet it is not always wise.  This simple seven person simulation is designed to help participants think through whether to collaborate or not, and if yes, with whom.  It may be used solo in executive training or embedded in a semester-long course. It is appropriate for courses on collaboration, collaborative problem solving, collaborative governance, public management, conflict resolution and negotiation. It may be distributed early to provide participants a chance to prepare in advance, or it may be passed out on the spot with participants being given 10-15 minutes to think through their strategy.  The scenario involves a farm that is for sale.  Each of the 7 participants, including public officials, developers, and a non-governmental organization (NGO), has a different interest in the farm.  There are variations in motivation and imbalances of power among participants.  Common instructions for all participants are provided that explain why the land is for sale, what the owner hopes to get out of selling, and a map to help everyone understand the lay of the land.  In addition, there are individual confidential instructions for each of the seven players that add new issues to weigh and some surprising secret facts.  The teaching note offers PowerPoint slides that present “The 10 Most Compelling Ideas in Collaboration Today”, and set the stage for the “Collaborate or Not” simulation, then debrief the simulation.

Honorable Mention, Best Teaching Simulation Competition, 2015 

Download this Simulation (pdf)

Download the Teaching Note (pdf)