Deakin University

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Building capacity for rural health : the role of boundary crossers in coalition maturity for partnerships with external agents

posted on 2008-01-01, 00:00 authored by Sue Kilpatrick, S Auckland, S Johns, J Whelan
The concept of partnership has entered policy rhetoric and is urged as good practice in a variety of domains including health. Rural communities tend to have fewer resources available for the provision of services such as health than their metropolitan counterparts, and so could be expected to benefit from partnerships with external agencies. Indicators of coalition maturity for working in partnership with external agents in order to build stronger communities are distilled from the group development and partnership research literature and considered in the light of the experiences of the University Department of Rural Health in community engagement. The chapter draws on experiences of two rural community coalitions working to plan and negotiate health service provision. The coalitions were analysed against the indicators. A key indicator of maturity and readiness for working in partnership with external agents is related to the behaviour of ‘boundary crossers’. Boundary crossers are defined as people who move freely between two or more domains and who understand the values, cultures and language, and have the trust, of both. Domains can be within a community or be the community and an external sector. Community health professionals, especially those in senior positions, often act as boundary crossers between the community and broader domains such as regional/state health services or policy, although other community members can fill the role. Other key indicators of coalition maturity for working in partnership with external agents include local leadership that empowers the community, a willingness of community coalitions to take risks and mould opportunities to meet their vision, and a culture of critical reflection and evaluation of past actions.

This chapter analyses the impact of boundary crossing behaviour on community readiness and partnerships with external agents that are intended to build rural community capacity to plan and negotiate health service provision. It is argued that the characteristics and modus operandi of boundary crossers who are members of rural community coalitions affect the level of maturity of the coalitions and community readiness to work with external agents. An understanding of the characteristics and modus operandi of boundary crossers provides valuable insights for external agents in designing their approach to partnerships that build rural community capacity for health.


Title of book

Building stronger communities : connecting research, policy and practice

Chapter number



220 - 236


National Institute of Adult Continuing Education

Place of publication

Leicester, England







Publication classification

B1.1 Book chapter; B Book chapter




L Doyle, D Adams, J Tibbitt, P Welsh

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