Improving collaborative outcomes: a review of project manager and facilitator roles and relationships

Collaboration addresses the “knottiest” of problems that society faces, and collaboration addressing natural resource management issues becomes as complex as the ecosystems collaborative groups affect. While collaborative processes have received more scholarly attention in recent years, relatively little work has investigated the nature of two key roles and the relationship between them: project managers and facilitators. My study focused on these topics and how they may influence outcomes in collaborative processes involving natural resource management issues. A data set that investigates all possible factors controlled by project managers and facilitators does not exist. Additionally, individual research methods carried risks and weaknesses that were unacceptable. Accordingly, I relied on multiple research methods. I utilized observation of collaborative meetings and interviews with project managers and facilitators to identify components of the collaborative process that improve outcomes in natural resource management. Observation of collaborative meetings provided opportunities to understand and witness various collaborative processes and the relationship between individuals in the project manager and facilitator roles. Interviews provided depth to individual reasoning and an opportunity to understand the intricacies of the relationship between project managers and facilitators. Through my research it became apparent that both project managers and facilitators view themselves as central to the collaborative process, which can cause tension between the individuals in each role. I present six practical recommendations to improve outcomes of collaborative processes addressing natural resource management. The recommendations provided are a direct result of the observations conducted and findings from my interviews with facilitators and project managers.