Collaboration continues to be a cornerstone of the Catholic Sisters initiative. The USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture (CRCC) undertook a qualitative study on the role collaboration plays in the Initiative’s portfolio in order to understand how sisters and their organizations use collaboration and to identify ways that the Catholic Sisters initiative can support collaborative efforts among sisters. CRCC staff reviewed the body of literature on collaboration, conducted observational fieldwork and in-depth interviews with key informants, and reviewed grantee reports and supporting documents. Five key learnings emerged from the study:

  1. Definitional clarity on collaboration helps align activities, resources and goals.  
  2. Moving along the collaboration continuum requires increasing amounts of trust, time and turf to be shared. While sisters might be doing more than one of these at a given time, they require very different capacities and commitments in order for these partnerships to deliver intended outcomes. 
  3. Networking does not necessarily result in collaboration or produce shared identity/global sisterhood. In order to achieve the ambitious goals of visibility and legitimacy, more commitments, resources, leadership development, coalition-building, and time are required.  
  4. Coalitions elevate sisters’ voices and increase visibility and recognition in the public sphere. 
  5. Leadership, autonomy and trust are prerequisites for collaboration and networking.

The study and its learnings provide a useful collaboration framework for the Catholic Sisters Initiative staff to use in developing grants and successfully implementing Strategy 25.