About Deep Collaboration

On This Page

What is Deep Collaboration?

Deep Collaboration was created by First Nations and other multicultural Australians, including practitioners, facilitators and community leaders who shared their ideas, experiences and expertise with one goal in mind. That goal was to find a new way to work and lead together. Working together and sharing leadership in new ways can open up new possibilities for all of us and our communities to create a more equitable and inclusive Australia.

Creating shared leadership across Australia requires system change to address the impacts of colonisation which are embedded and perpetuated through dominant institutions, mindsets and ways of working. This website however focuses exclusively on the skills and collaborative practice that collaborations and individuals can develop and embed.  It describes a way of working at a collaboration and interpersonal level that embeds the values and steps needed to create shared leadership. We have included videos, factsheets, links and other resources to help share this process and the reasons why this way of working is valuable.  In the future development of Deep Collaboration we aim to develop resources and capacity building that focus on the systemic challenges and opportunities. 

The Deep Collaboration processes and tools here have been developed by Collaboration for Impact from work over a number of years that brought together First Nations and other multicultural Australians to build collaboration.

The main theories that inform them come from First Nations expertise and a range of models of working, Adaptive Leadership, Process Oriented Psychology - which includes Power and Role Theory/Practice and Deep Democracy and practice for Systems Change. See our glossary for definitions of these terms.

We want to know your thoughts as well. These ways of working will evolve as we learn from the people putting it into practice. You can share your experiences of Deep Collaboration with us via our contact page. We will continue to work on new training and resources around these ideas together with people we collaborate with.

Collaboration for Impact

Collaboration for Impact (CFI) is a not-for-profit, networked organisation that exists to create a more equitable and inclusive Australia. We believe in a society that is able to solve complex challenges, seize opportunities and thrive.

To realise this vision, we build capability around systems change in Australia in order to address our entrenched social and environmental challenges. We advocate for processes and practice that puts those most impacted by these challenges at the centre of efforts to solve them.

We have developed Deep Collaboration to recognise the central role of First Nation peoples in this work and the need to increase our collective capacity for working together and co-creating solutions.

Our expertise is in building this capability to create the conditions for systems change, including the relationships and connections; power dynamics; and mental models we use.

Source: FSG The Water of Systems Change


Where it started

"We cannot respond to this call without improving our individual and collective skills to listen and talk in very different ways. We need new conversations that don't get lost in rhetoric, good intentions and feel-good statements. We need the very conversations we often don't dare to have, and are too fearful to start.” —Lost Conversations p.12

The book, Lost Conversations: Finding new ways for black and white Australians to lead together was published in November 2014. This book was the work of five Aboriginal and four non-Indigenous authors sharing their ideas on how new ways of shared leadership between First Nations and other Australians could be established as a foundation for future collaboration.

Lost Conversations was written by Geoff Aigner, Cheryl Godwell, Jane Martin, Grant Paulson, John Rawnsley, Kim Robertson, Liz Skelton, Libby Varcoe and Mark Yettica-Paulson through the Social Leadership Australia, Headland Program. This book is available freely.

Deep Collaboration is founded in the work of Lost Conversations and learnings since its launch.

This current version of Deep Collaboration was created by CFI network members Jane Martin, Grant Paulson; and CFI Core Team Liz Skelton and Mark Yettica-Paulson. It is based on their work with cross-cultural collaborations involving First Nation peoples across Australia. This work is ongoing and we look forward to welcoming new contributors as it evolves.


How this all came about

Grant and Liz talk about how this process began with Lost Conversations.



The artwork for the logo and website were created by Bunjalung/Yegal artist Elsie Randall in collaboration with Melissa Horvat from Graphika. Beck Ronkson led the development of the Deep Collaboration online platform. We’d like to thank all of our critical friends who tested and gave us feedback in the development of Deep Collaboration.

Elsie Randall

Elsie Randall

The Deep Collaboration Platform is part of Platform C which provides information and tools on stages and phases of cross sector collaboration to create the conditions for systems change.