Definition and Terms

Language can be a very useful tool, yet at the same time, it can create confusion and conflict when we are using the same term or word but have a different meaning in mind than the other person we are collaborating with. Collaboration means different things to different people. At the start of any collaborative endeavour, we need to make sure we are talking about the same thing and agree on a set of definitions.

The term “collaboration” has become a catch-all phrase for any type of cooperation, shared stakes or investments; the alternative to competition. Collaboration is more specific than just teamwork or cooperation although it is intimately connected to those terms.

The following is a glossary of terms and definitions related to collaboration and partnership:

Collaborate / Collaboration

  • A process through which parties who see different aspects of a problem (or issue) can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible (Gray, 1985).
  • Implies equal parties working together.
  • Encourages introspection of behaviours and communication.
  • Community-based collaboration (CBC): the use of partnering, facilitation, mediation, consensus building and other alternative dispute resolution techniques to prevent and resolve public interest conflicts (Montana Consensus Council).
  • A relationship in which the achievement of the identified common goals are equally as important as the relationship itself.

Partner / Partnership

  • One who joins in an activity with another or others, one of two or more persons jointly owning a business, a spouse, two persons dancing, a player on the same team.


  • From the word syn-ergos (Greek), meaning working together. This is the term used to describe a situation where different entities cooperate advantageously for a final outcome.
  • Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The essence of synergy is to value differences.
  • A dynamic state in which combined action is favoured over the sum of individual component actions.


  • Collective, common, conjoint, mutual, joint bi-lateral, trilateral, multilateral.

Side With

  • Go along with, uphold, make common cause with, unite with, join with, cast one’s lot with, rally around, follow the lead of.


  • An individual or organization with a legitimate interest in a given situation, action or enterprise.
  • A party who affects or can be affected by an organization’s actions.

To Stake

  • To furnish with money or resources.

Strategic Alliance

  • A formal relationship formed between two or more parties to pursue a set of agreed-upon goals or to meet critical business needs while remaining independent organizations.
  • Partners may provide the strategic alliance with resources such as products, distribution channels, capability, project funding, capital equipment, knowledge, expertise, or intellectual property
  • The alliance or partnership aims for synergy where each partner hopes that the benefits from the alliance will be greater than those from individual efforts.
  • The alliance often involves technology transfer (access to knowledge and expertise), economic specialization, shared expenses and shared risk.


  • Concur, concert, co-act, co-function, collaborate, coordinate, synchronize, combine, pool, pull together, stand shoulder to shoulder, work hand in glove, join forces, fraternize, conspire, collude, connive.


  • Take part, share, be a party to, partake in, lend oneself to, chip in, contribute.

Associate / Association

  • To connect, combine, join, to bring into relationship as a partner, to connect in the mind, a friend, partner, co-worker, joined with others in work, having less than full status.
  • Alliance, league, society, company, partnership, pool, gentlemen’s agreement, co-federation, coalition, fusion, trust, combine, fellowship, comradeship.
  • Coalition.

Team / teamwork

  • Joint action by a group of people.


  • The exchange done or felt by two or more for or toward the other or others.
  • Of each other.
  • Shared in common.


  • Returning, done, or given in return.
  • Corresponding or complimentary.
  • A compliment or counterpart.


  • Reliance, trust for support, or aid.


  • Mutual, reciprocal.
  • Relationship

Merge / Merger

  • To cause to combine, unite or coalesce.
  • The absorption of an interest in another.
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