This study develops a communicative model of collaboration failure to address one of the key challenges of collaboration theory and practice: the discrepancy between the promise of collaboration and the reality of persistent failure. A theoretical framework is developed based on notions of dialogue, discourse, and coorientation, which informs three key aspects of collaboration: knowledge production, shared identity, and collective agency. This theoretical framework is then combined with analytic themes from an empirical case study of a failed civil society collaboration. Themes of communication practice that constitute collaborative failure are detailed, while also contrasting these with alternative practices that can enable more successful collaboration. Further implications are discussed, specifically in terms of rethinking common collaboration dualisms of structure/process and talk/action.