Cross-sector groups offer so much potential to tackle the most complex challenges we face.

But they can be hamstrung when…


Meetings are dominated by one person or organisation

Sometimes cross-sector groups are led by one organisation or agency. It seems like a good idea at the start: you don’t have to find additional resource for somebody independent to lead things.

But every organisation has its own agenda, and before long that agenda can start to dominate.

Your meetings last for hours. And while the chairperson from the lead organisation speaks a lot, most people leave feeling like they might as well not have been there.

You’ve got lots of ideas, but not much action

Have you ever been involved in a cross-sector group that’s paralysed by decisions?

Your group starts with some visioning and brainstorming processes. Which results in a long list of good ideas.

But then you get stuck.

You have so many ideas you don’t know where to begin. You’re overwhelmed by options, and end up doing nothing.

You suffer from group-think

Group-think happens when people are afraid to share their concerns. They stay quiet because they fear the consequences of speaking out.

It can have disastrous results for a group. You push on with something, without fully thinking things through.

This often happens when you have a dominating chairperson, or don’t have any processes for everybody to share their views.

You end up playing it safe

Many cross-sector groups get very busy, but they’re busy doing ‘business-as-usual’.

Coordination is valuable, but it’s also the safe option. Many cross-sector groups end up falling into this way of working. You tell each other about the great work you’re already doing and figure out ways to link things better.

Collaboration is much harder, and often requires significant upheavals within organisations and communities. Rather than just coordinating what you’re already doing, you’re sharing resources to create new solutions and services.


You can avoid these pitfalls

Effective planning benefits from an inclusive approach that inspires people to get things done. Our ‘action from day one’ approach quickly identifies relevant challenges and makes sure the right people are on-board to tackle them.

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi.
With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive.
— Māori proverb


Create a collaborative group that’s structured, inclusive and effective

Top of the South Youth Hui 2 image of everybody at the end of the hui with hands up

The best ideas start as conversations.

Our approach recognises that people are people-first, workers-second. We give space for everybody to connect before getting into the nitty gritty of the challenges you’re working on.

We’ll work with you to design a process that:

  • engages the right people

  • gives people the opportunity to define the problems, not just the solutions

  • drives involvement through considered communications

  • narrows your focus to a small number of high-leverage opportunities.

Our independent facilitation and coordination creates an equal playing field to turn challenges into opportunities.


“We were nervous about investing in a process where there were no defined outcomes at the start.”

Most organisations start projects with a business case that says “If you invest X, you’ll get Y.”

This works well for simple challenges where you can guarantee an outcome.

But cross-sector groups are all about tackling complex challenges. In this environment, you need to test different approaches in the real world to learn, adapt and respond.

We often talk about “simplifying complexity” - which means narrowing your focus rather than being overwhelmed by possibilities.

Rather than dictating the outcomes at the start, we trust the people involved to co-create those outcomes through the process. Often, you’ll achieve outcomes you might never have anticipated.

This is uncertain territory for many people. And we get that. We will work with you to bring people on the journey so you can move from ideas to action.

Our process helps to identify people who are willing to lead and contribute. And we help to narrow the group’s focus so you don’t end up with a long list of ideas that never get implemented.

Colin on the whiteboard
The Business Lab team were just so natural as facilitators. I’ve worked with others where they ‘facilitate’ and are obviously using techniques. They were just natural, just themselves. We haven’t felt like we’ve been processed!
— Sarah Yarrow, Trustee, Nelson Festivals Trust


Set your collaborative group up to be more than a talk-fest.


We believe cross-sector collaboration is key to the challenges our society faces. Only by working together can we shift the needle on some of today’s most complex challenges.

With our support, you group will:

  • Identify a small number of high-leverage opportunities to work on together

  • Form working groups to turn those opportunities into action

  • Develop a collaborative learning culture that will set your group up for the long-term.

However, we’re probably not the people for you if:

  • You just want somebody to facilitate a one-off meeting and leave it at that

  • You want full control over the outcomes and the work that’s done.

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