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Develop the Foundations for the Living Classroom: (4) Formalize the Collaboration, (5) Commit to the Physical Space for the Living Classroom, (6) Create Standard Operating Protocols and Formal Agreements

A LC requires rigorous planning and agreement discussions, followed by documented and signed agreements. Although these agreements take a considerable amount of time and careful planning, it is important for any formal collaboration wishing to be successful. Therefore, we recommend that you have an operational viability plan, a collaboration plan, the LC physical design, SOPs, and formal agreements in place before the implementation phase begins.

Formalize the Collaboration

Once both organizations have confirmed that the LC is viable and agree on shared values and a mission statement, then it is time to start thinking of the business relationship for the LC. There are many types of business relationships, and each has its pros and cons. Table 5 below distinguishes these different forms of business relationships (adapted from Mattessich, 2001).

Table 5: Business Relationships for the Living Classroom

Table 5: Business Relationships for the Living Classroom

Essential Components in Business OrganizationCooperationCoordinationCollaboration
Vision and RelationshipsIndependent goals

No time limit

No clear mission or planning effort
Interdependent goals

Often focused on one project at a time, short-term goals
Organizations work together on a shared mission

One or more projects worked on for long-term results
Structure, Responsibilities and CommunicationEach organization functions individually

Information is given only when necessary
Structured communication flows

Formalized project-based
information sharing
Several communication channels

Tacit information sharing
Authority and AccountabilityPower remains with each organizationAuthority and accountability rests with each organization, but some coordination and leadership is involvedEqual risk is shared by all organizations
Resources and RewardsResources and rewards remain with each organizationRewards are mutually
acknowledged between organizations
Resources and rewards are shared mutually between organizations

From our experience, we found that a business relationship focused on collaboration was optimal for our LC.

“A collaboration is two or more different partners (e.g., individuals, organizations, networks) coming together from various sectors, groups and/or neighbourhoods to work toward common goals. Collaborations are about people and organization building, nurturing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships in order to achieve shared goals that will benefit all parties” (Graham and Mollenhauer, 2011).

There are several reasons why a collaboration is an ideal structure for the LC:

First, a collaboration requires sharing of resources. In relation to the LC, both a PSE and a LTC home have something unique to offer the LC, making the collaboration greater than the sum of its parts. For example, a PSE brings experienced faculty, its curriculum, and students seeking an education in caring for older adults. A LTC home brings a team of health care professionals, mentors, residents and families, a LTC environment, and real-time practices in care and service delivery for older adults. In order for the LC to become the best that it can be, a LTC home and a PSE must be open to sharing their resources and expertise.

Second, a collaboration requires a high level of mutual trust between a PSE and a LTC home. A PSE and a LTC home who develop a trusting relationship demonstrate the following characteristics (Ontario Association of Residents’ Councils, 2012):

  • looking forward to opportunities to work as a team;
  • appreciating and tapping into one another’s skills and experiences;
  • knowing one’s limitations and strengths and are not afraid to ask for help or support;
  • offering and accepting apologies without hesitation;
  • accepting questions and input about one’s areas of responsibility;
  • focusing time and energy on important issues, not politics;
  • being inclusive of others;
  • giving others the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a conclusion; and
  • taking risks in offering feedback and assistance.

Third, a collaboration requires strong communication channels to be established, not only between the collaborating organizations, but also between its internal and external stakeholders. A collaboration between a PSE and a LTC home can leverage its existing circle of stakeholders who are engaged in supporting students’ knowledge, skills and workforce competencies. Internal stakeholders include the LTC team, residents and family members, all benefiting directly from the LC by contributing to students’ learning while refining their own practices and participating in meaningful activities. Other internal stakeholders include students and faculty from the PSE, who benefit from access to supportive environments that support career-ready learning.

Meanwhile, external stakeholders include other LTC homes, who gain from the LC by having access to more graduates who are interested and available to join the LTC workforce. Community organizations are also considered external stakeholders as they benefit from the LC by having access to the learning environments, simulation labs, classrooms, and resources, when not in use for the LC, which can strengthen community building and capacity for a variety of groups.

Fourth, as with each endeavour and new collaboration, risk, power and reward are equally shared. This facilitates a healthy and long-term relationship between both organizations. Planning, implementing, promoting and evaluating the LC is a long-term commitment requiring a LTC home and a PSE to remain committed to fulfilling the LC vision and mission, along with ongoing commitments of resources (i.e., financial, personnel, expertise, and space).

To find out more about why Conestoga College and Schlegel Villages used this model, see the story below.

Our Story of Collaboration

Conestoga College and Schlegel Villages both had something to offer that the other party admired and desired. The college works with faculty that have extensive expertise in gerontological teaching and curriculum development. Schlegel Villages has a strong reputation as a leading LTC home provider with over 3,500 residents and over 3,800 team members. At Schlegel Villages, recruiting excellent team members is a priority, with an aim to be known as an employer of choice for PSWs and PNs.

Conestoga College and Schlegel Villages have had a relationship since 2006 focused on mutual gain training and practice development. Our collaboration to create LCs made sense since we shared the same vision to solve the current challenges that PSEs and LTC homes face. The photos below illustrate the many players involved in creating and sustaining this collaborative relationship.

Organizational Leaders Committed to
the Service Education Collaboration

Shared leadership through relationships with a long-term view
These individuals are the leaders from Conestoga, Schlegel Villages and the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging who are central to ensuring the program, financial and legal underpinnings are in place. Three of these individuals (one from each organization) have been working together for nine years. Shared values related to innovation and mutual gain have sustained the LC through both highs and lows.

Implementation Team at the Village of Riverside Glen

Shared values and objectives with a commitment to teamwork
This is the LC team at the Village of Riverside Glen. Continuity of PSE and LTC home involvement, administrative processes (streamlined over five years), plus on-site leadership to engage new members in the team create energy and positive momentum and ease of working relationships.

Implementation Team at the Village at University Gates

Building on Success
This is the new team at the Schlegel Centre of Excellence for Innovation in Aging in Waterloo, Ontario. This team and the LC have developed quickly since all collaborators have the benefit of learning from Riverside Glen.