Investing in Collaboration
A client recently called us her “network therapists.” She works for a foundation and was helping launch a network. The foundation saw that if organizations in a region could work in a networked way they could achieve greater impact and have a stronger political voice. However, the organizations had to find the value in working together – it had to come from them – or the network would not work. Our client experienced the discomfort of wanting a concrete plan and answers while we were in the stage of creating the space for the participants to come to those answers together. Investing in true collaboration meant we asked the question of the group, and had to be open to what their answer was, even if they concluded they did not see value in creating a network.
In a similar example, the Executive Director of an environmental non-profit asked for our help in bringing together many organizations working on a specific environmental problem to align their work and create a network. He recently said to me, “What I really want is to get everyone invested and agreed on the direction we are heading, and on a plan.” If you want to arrive at a shared vision and a plan that integrates and builds on the breadth and depth of expertise and perspectives of the group, it has to be developed together. The challenge is that in order to get to that, there is a time early on where you have to bring everyone together without a clear vision or clear plan.
But wow, is this territory uncomfortable for people! Another client said “this really is a leap of faith.” Indeed. A key part of my job is guiding leaders of collaborative initiatives in how to navigate this unfamiliar territory of uncertainty. It’s a process of learning through experience that, as my friend Adam Pattantyus says, “the unknown can be trustworthy.”
Click here for for Part 2 where we explore why the real prizes to be gained from collaboration may lie beyond our comfort zone.