The Constellation Model of Collaborative Governance is a complexity-inspired framework designed to ‘hold’ collaborations within dynamic systems. Balancing chaos and order, energy and structure, the governance model supports multi-organization partnerships and networks within complex systems.
The Constellation Model emerged out of the necessity to support the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE) — a cross sectoral, multi-organizational partnership of 11 organizations working on toxics issues. CPCHE, through its powerful partnership, dedicated partners and collaborative strategy, was instrumental in getting the Federal Government to ban bisphenol-A in baby bottles making Canada’s Chemicals Management policies one of the most child-protective on the planet. It also sparked a market transformation which resulted in the virtual elimination of bisphenol A in food-grade plastics and a fundamental re-think of toxics in plastics in general. See below for a description of the Constellation Model, CPCHE’s Governance Model and Management Terms of Reference.
Emerging through CPCHE, the model took on a life of its own and began to inspire other thinking and applications. Soon after this first description was published by Tonya Surman in 2006, the Lien Centre for Social Innovation’s published perhaps the most concise description of the model in Social Spaces. Here is the article written by Tonya Surman and Mark Surman. This was quickly followed up with an article in the Open Source Business Review that explores the elements of the model which align with open source thinking.
With the success of the constellation model for partnerships, the next question was, could it scale to enable networks to thrive. CSI has had the opportunity to adapt the constellation model to networks in its work incubating the Ontario Nonprofit Network — a network of networks serving the 45,000 nonprofits across the province. The model has had to adapt tremendously to meet the needs of this network, but this has only enhanced our ability to identify the transferable ‘essence’ of the model. Here is a description of the ONN Governance Model.
The Constellation Model has also been adopted and adapted by the Ontario Literacty Coalition, the Canadian Partnership on Equity and Frontline Partners with Youth Network. We would be delighted to learn who else has used the model.
Recently, CSI introduced the Innovative Collaborations Workshop which we delivered in Australia, New Zealand and now here. The workshop explores ‘open web’ inspired collaboration, the constellation model and shared spaces – identifying the transferable design elements that embody this new collaboration and how these elements might be applied to other collaborations.
Below are some of the articles, resources and examples of how others have integrated the constellation model into practice.
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The Open Source Business Resource
Tonya Surman from the Centre for Social Innovation and Mark Surman of the Mozilla Foundation explain an innovative approach to organizing collaborative efforts in the social mission sector. Download PDF
A model for multi-organizational partnership by Tonya Surman. Download PDF
Listening to the Stars: The Constellation Model of Collaborative Social Change
An article from Social Space magazine, 2008. Download PDF
Terms of Reference: Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment
Governance of the Ontario Nonprofit Network
Constellation Model in Support of a Provincial Strategy for Family Literacy
StepUp BC: The Constellation Prototype and Guide