Successful Collaboratives Communicate More - Bob Woodruff Foundation

Successful Collaboratives Communicate More

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As of November 1, 2020, National Veterans Intermediary (NVI) is called the Local Partner Network. Older content may reference our original name.

Our latest round of ecosystem data shows that 46% of our communities use meetings to communicate with their collaboratives. Especially in large geographic areas, in-person meetings can be taxing on collaborators’ schedules. There’s a lot to be said for the value of face-to-face meetings in developing a collaborative effort. Trust-building is based on the nonverbal cues, postures, and attitudes that we project in person. However, when you attend a meeting, you’re investing more than the hour or so on the calendar invite—you’re committing to prepare, travel there, and travel back.

So where is the balance between the need for in-vivo collaboration and the need to maintain a schedule that doesn’t create the need to inhale a gas station sandwich on your way to the next meeting? We can’t make your commitments disappear, but we can share a couple tools that help us—and collaboratives around the country—stay connected between meetings.

Chat and file sharing

Use these tools for:

  • Short form, highly collaborative group or one-on-one chat
  • File sharing
  • One on One video chat


Slack is an online workspace that allows teams to communicate using multiple means in parallel—instant messaging, file sharing—all at once.

Use Slack for ongoing conversation and to support project management; it can keep your team’s comms flowing and organized. The channels help you keep discussions on topic and in order, the interface is simple (if you can text, you can Slack), and you can use it to keep notes and set reminders. Plus, Slack allows users to search the last 10,000 messages.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is an online, free communications suite with chat, text, voice over IP, and video chat capability. Google Hangouts enables similar features to Slack and boasts virtually unlimited chat history search capability. Layout-wise, Google hangouts feels less like digital workspace. It’s not secure, so it’s not an appropriate platform for case conferencing.

Video conferencing

Use these resources to get your team face-to-face for meetings—no travel, no fuss. You can also use them to host webinars.


Zoom‘s features include video conferencing (one on one or groups of up to 100 – for free accounts, a 40 minute time limit is placed on chats with more than three members), screen sharing, and chat.


Another video chat option is GoToMeeting. It’s got a free version with a simple, browser-based interface—no need to download software. Three people can join your meeting for up to 40 minutes using the free plan. For bigger meetings or longer duration, you’ll have to pony up $15-40/month.

Project management

Use project management software to divide and conquer. You can break a project down into individual tasks, set goals and deadlines, assign tasks to team members, and communicate and track progress.


Basecamp is a project management and team communications tool that lets users create and assign tasks, and monitor project progress. Communication is streamlined with a “conversations” feature that lets readers see the whole thread instead of clicking through email traffic. Basecamp charges a flat rate of $99/month, no matter how many users—great value for growing collaboratives!


Asana is another project management tool and digital workspace. There’s a freemium membership available for teams of up to 15 (plenty big for a working group within a collaborative) but for advanced features or more members, collaboratives will need to pay $9.99/member per month. Users can break projects down into steps, assign tasks, and visualize progress using charts or a timeline feature. Asana integrates with Outlook, Office 365, Slack, Dropbox, and Google (Drives, Calendar, Sheets, you name it) to help all your tech work together.

Learn more

To learn more about Zoom, Slack, and other free technologies to keep your collaborative connected, check out our blog, Resource Spotlight: Technologies for Communication.