Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Kimberley Freire

Second Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Beck

Third Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Beck

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Brian Bride


"Uncertainty is permanent, chaotic times are normal, change is accelerating, and instability will likely characterize the rest of our lives." (Jim Collins, Great by Choice)

BACKGROUND: We live in a hyper-uncertain world fueled by wicked” problems, such as climate change, and a global pandemic, impacting public health’s goals of ensuring well-being and health equity for all. Broad agreement exists that collaboration is necessary to solve wicked problems, but consensus on what distinguishes collaboration from other forms of group work (e.g., coordination) is still developing. Without consensus, researchers and practitioners lack a common language and foundation to collaborate, as well as agreed-upon tools to assess such efforts, leading to inconsistent practices and measurement of collaboration.

METHODS: To fill these gaps and elevate the importance of more informed collaboration, the author: 1. Synthesized collaboration scholarship and assessment tools to identify distinguishing elements of collaboration; 2. Developed and piloted a new 7-point Likert-style tool, the Collaboration Assessment Survey Tool (CAST); 3. Analyzed survey results.

RESULTS: Micro-level relational processes distinguish collaboration, in contrast to the macro-level elements that predominate many assessment tools. Unlike other measurement tools, the CAST has a primary focus on micro-level processes. For the pilot, 77 (35%) of the 228 individuals emailed the survey responded. Results indicate that mean values across all domains fall in the “agree” range, and nearly 90% of item mean values fall into “somewhat disagree” and “somewhat agree” response choices. Preliminary insights, to be further tested, are that domains and items with higher mean values may be areas groups tend to develop earlier in their work, and those with lower means may be areas that tend to come later, or involve challenging concepts for groups to grapple with. Cronbach’s alpha values indicate moderate to strong internal consistency. Pearson correlation coefficient (r) found mostly moderate to strong, positive, bi-variate correlations.

CONCLUSION: To address our increasing wicked problems, we must change the practice of conflating collaboration with other forms of working together, and build the capacity of groups to focus on micro-level relational processes. The pilot’s findings are preliminary, with continued piloting planned to establish validity. This research potentially marks a turn in what collaborating groups should

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