Relational Coordination Collaborative

Resilient Communities Innovation Lab

Relational mapping of a community challenge

In a world facing wicked social challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, and climate change, leaders must be better equipped to navigate complexities. Addressing complex social challenges requires the collaboration of multiple and simultaneous relationships among business, government, nonprofits and community. New and deep understandings of these intersections also call for holistic and integrative forms of knowledge developed through research, practice and direct experience. Further, the quality of these connections - including the presence or absence of shared goals, shared knowledge, and mutual respect - impacts their ability to engage successfully in multi-level systems change.

This learning community, co-hosted by Suffolk University's Sawyer Business School, will bring together scholars and change leaders from around the world to advance teaching, research, and practice and build relational capacity for multilevel systems change.  Our work will be informed by relational coordination, social capital, administrative and organizational theories.  We will connect members from government, business, and nonprofit sectors to apply models of change, related tools, and empirical research to improve a wide range of organizational and community outcomes. 


Building Relational Capacity for Resilient Communities is committed to producing and disseminating research and related tools on the theory, practice, and teaching of relational practices and approaches that support high performance through:

  • Convening.  Meet throughout the year in virtual and in-person formats (RCC Roundtable, RC Cafes, etc.) to share ideas and insights and to develop theory, practice, and teaching as it relates to building relational capacity for resilience.
  • Community.  Cultivate a community that supports an interdisciplinary approach to building resilience to address complex social challenges.  


We welcome students, faculty, researchers and practitioners to join this learning community as a convener, subject matter expert, or partner in understanding and addressing the wicked problems that face communities and organizations.   Our partners are interested in:
  • Studying and sharing how high-quality relationships and communication within and across organizations impact a wide range of outcomes, including worker well-being, quality, and efficiency, and learning and innovation, among others.
  • Applying the Relational Model of Change and related tools within and across organizations to address wicked challenges and improve outcomes.
  • Building a supportive community with other change leaders and scholars to share insights from research and practice and gain a better understanding of how the quality of relationships and communication impacts interdependent work and which processes, policies and practices support these relationships. 

Join This Innovation Lab

manage  your member account to join this innovation labResources

RC Cafe:  Building relational capacity for resilient communities. Relational Coordination Collaborative, May 11, 3-4:00 ET

Teaching Case: Hajjar, L., Gittell, J.H., Meier, N., Gunn, B. (2022). Breaking down silos to build collaborative systems.  Eds. C. Carlson, J.C. Gershenfeld, M. Kriegsman, Heller School Social Impact Case Collection.  Brandeis University Press.

In the News:  Building resilient communities - one conversation at a timeSuffolk University News, March 13, 2023.  Professor Lauren Hajjar been assisting the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court in St. Louis as it tries to enhance communication and coordination within and across providers.

Published Chapter:  Hajjar, L., Cook, B.S., Domlyn, A., Ray, K.A., Laird, D. & Wandersman, A. (2020).  Readiness and relationships are crucial for coalitions and collaboratives: Concepts and evaluation tools.  In Evaluating Community Coalitions and Collaboratives: New Directions for Evaluation165: 103-122.

Published Paper:  Gebo, E. & Bond, B. J. (2022). Improving interorganizational collaborations: An application in a violence reduction context. The Social Science Journal, 59(2), 318-329.

Published Paper: Gebo, E. & Bond, B. J. (2022). Advancing interorganizational crime and violence reduction goals through a relational change intervention. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 33(5): 455-479.

Conference Proceedings:  Gittell, J. H., Sutcliffe, K. M., Vogus, T. J., Ali, H. N., Bhardwaj, A., Dillon, E., Faraj, S., Hajjar, L., Kragen, B., Malas, K., Yang, J., Deng, S., Martinez, M., Pertsch, S. & Weger, L. (2022). Relationships and resilience in the COVID-19 pandemic. In Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings (Vol. 2022, No. 1).

Founding Members

Lauren Hajjar

Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University

Dr. Lauren Hajjar specializes in organizational change and relational practices that support high performing teams, organizations and communities. Her research has explored the coordination of inter and intra-organizational work in multiple contexts across the United States and in collaboration with colleagues from around the globe. Her recent research themes include: human resource management, organizational resilience and relational practices that support high performance.

Hajjar is skilled in quantitative and qualitative analysis and uses diverse methodologies to answer research questions, including ethnographic methods such as interviews, focus groups, participant observation and field-based surveys. She has presented her research in papers and symposia at the Annual Meetings of Labor and Employment Relations Association, Academy of Management and other international forums. Recent research has been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, National Institute of Corrections and the Sawyer Business School.

Brenda J. Bond-Fortier

Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University

Brenda J. Bond-Fortier, PhD is Professor of Public Administration at Suffolk University.  Brenda’s work focuses on the structures, processes and functions that influence organizational change and culture, collaboration, and the implementation of public and social policies. Her book, Organizational Change in an Urban Police Department: Innovating to Reform (2020), analyzes organizational change and community relationships as part of an organizational transformation. Having studied and consulted with communities and governments across the US, Brenda is a recognized scholar, research partner and media contributor.  

Brenda consults for 21CP Solutions, Inc. where she conducts reviews and advises higher education leaders on campus public safety. Brenda served as an expert for the US Department of Justice, and previously worked at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government Program in Criminal Justice Policy & Management. As a practitioner, Brenda was Research Advisor for a regional police chiefs’ association, and Director of Research and Development for a Massachusetts police department. Brenda received a PhD and MA in Social Policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, a Master of Arts in Community Social Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from University of Massachusetts Lowell.  

Carsten Hornstrup, RCC Board Member

Carsten Hornstrup

CEO, Joint Action Analytics

Carsten Hornstrup is CEO at Joint Action, a Scandinavian based consultancy and action research company, specialized in building strategies and advise leaders on building coordinated processes around very complex welfare challenges. He holds a MSc in Political Science and a PhD on building capacity for change. Together with his colleagues in Joint Action, he works with welfare organizations in Scandinavia and the US. He is a member of the Relational Coordination Collaborative Advisory Board. His primary research interest is how leaders at all levels can support stronger and more coordinated welfare services.

Zachary Hylton

PhD Student, The Heller School for Social Policy & Management, Brandeis University

Ninna Meier

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Work, Aalborg University

Ninna Meier studies organisation and management of public sector organisations. She has researched public sector organisations since 2009, particularly clinical managerial work in hospitals, coordination practices, and standard in health care work. In her latest project, she researched efforts to create coherency in patient pathways across organizational and professional boundaries in three large hospital wards. She is a qualitative researcher particularly interested in clinical managerial work practices, coherency across boundaries, the role of space, materiality and relational aspects of work, and how to study, analyse, and write about context in health care research. 

With Charlotte Wegener, Department of Communication, she is exploring the role of writing in achieving impact and innovation in practice - in what they call the Open Writing project. Please see the latest blog post at the London School of Economics Impact.

Carlos Rufin

Carlos Rufin

Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University

Carlos Rufín is Professor of Public Service and International Business at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School. His research examines infrastructure networks and markets, Public-Private Partnerships, regulatory affairs, renewable energy, access to basic services, and sustainable urbanization. He has also worked on these topics as a consultant to the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development, among many organizations. In addition to full-time teaching at Suffolk University and previously at Babson College, he is the President of the Institute for International Urban Development, and has been a visiting scholar and guest lecturer at many  universities around the world. He is the author of two books and numerous articles in major international journals. Dr. Rufín has a PhD in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, as well as an M.A. degree in Economics from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Princeton University.