WHY BUILD COMMUNITY COLLABORATION?

Throughout history, progress and even survival, have at times depended on collaboration.  When environmental conditions, competition, or other circumstances have made life more difficult or resources scarce, great civilizations and movements have been developed by people uniting together for a common purpose.  Greatness and progress have often accompanied a unified effort through adversity.  When Creativity, Skills, Self-Efficacy, and Motivation, accompany Collaboration, possibilities are extended, doors are opened, capacity expanded, and success realized.

     Today, some communities have lost sight of their own capacity.  They have partially lost the requisite self-efficacy (belief in their own abilities) and democratic participation to solve problems and expand capacity.  In Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz wrote: 'Often the only difference between a success and a failure is not one's better abilities or ideas, but the courage (self-efficacy) that one has to bet on one's ideas, to take a calculated risk - -and to act.'

     For the individual, the group or collaboration can often offer greater access and a more powerful vehicle for change.  For the community, individual participation often results in better decisions and a better decision making process.

     "The irony of democratic participation over the past 40 years is that while both the public (government) and private (professional/specialists) capacity to assist with and attempt to solve the ills of urban and rural communities has risen, the capacity of the actual community to help itself has declined. Local democratic participation has decreased. Individuals no longer see themselves as part of a community of shared values and norms. Individuals have lost "…the conviction that they can influence the events and circumstances of their lives or the world around them" (Gardner, 1995). Sources of this ironic twist of fate are numerous and complex. Some researchers point to the rising complexity of problems facing urban and rural communities, the increase in specialized knowledge necessary to deal with complex problems, and the inability of redistributive policies to deal with inequality (Sirianni & Friedland, 1995). As Keith, citing Boyte, points out, "…the core norms of the broader American culture conspire to make us into a nation of clients seeking benefits. No longer are we a nation of citizens who see ourselves as doing politics" (Keith, 1996)."  Strengthening Community Networks:
The Basis for Sustainable Community Renewal  Prepared by Brett Lane and Diane Dorfman
June 30, 1997

     While some communities have shown a decrease in self-efficacy and participation, those communities are generally not lacking in assets, with the possible exception of the essential assets of self-efficacy, participation, and collaborative tools.  The purpose of this web site is to provide those tools and encourage you to take a calculated risk, and to act.  Many communities and organizations throughout the world are acting and making extraordinary advances through active and collaborative relationships.  Your community or organization can identify and strengthen existing assets, find solutions, and expand capacity and capital.  This information will help, but the true capability is yours.

     In an environment where some resources are decreasing while demands are increasing, collaboration has become even more essential.  Projects, grants, and  programs, today, often require extensive collaboration.  Communities now, much like great communities of the past, find and encourage greatness by uniting, and encouraging the discovery, building, enhancing, and expanding of existing, strengths, assets, and resources.
     Strengthening and empowering Communities, Families, and Individuals, is aided, through Cooperation and Collaboration.  
    A community can be any group of individuals or families working toward a common goal.  A community may include but is not limited to: a town, a city, a neighborhood, an office, an industry, a profession, a school, a religion, a corporation, a geographic, or political entity.

     For a corporation or agency, collaboration may take on a different purpose and be seen in another light.

     Communication between an organization and a community usually falls within one of four basic levels/categories.  Problems usually arise for a corporation or agency when more collaboration was needed than attempted, and when the organization says that it is doing one level and in reality is doing another.    For example, companies sometime attempt the Input/Feedback level when the Collaboration level was needed, or an agency says that it is doing Collaboration when it is actually only doing Education.  Occasionally, though this may be unusual, problems may arise when too much collaboration is attempted for a specific, time limited, situation. (Please also see "Levels of Authority.")

     ~ Damage Control:  This often happens when someone assumes that more communication and collaboration was not needed, when it really was, when critical errors are made, or accidents occur.  This also happens when the agency/corporation says it is doing one level and is actually doing another.  Damage control is often a public relations nightmare but is sometimes unavoidable.

     ~ Education: This level of community relations is used frequently by corporations and agencies. At this level, information on Mission, Vision, Products, and other aspects of the corporation/agency are shared with the community.  Information is usually distributed through public relations/information/advertising campaigns.  In some situations, this is sufficient and appropriate for the corporation or agency.  Many organizations; however, are finding that education alone is not enough.   For example, it would usually be very foolish for a company to mass produce a new product without conducting market research.

    ~ Input/Feedback: More and more organizations are finding it helpful to not only provide education to the public (or even internally, within the organization), but to also solicit input/feedback from the public (or internally). An organization may want feedback about; services or products they provide, or even performance within the organization. They may also want feedback regarding the use of shared resources. The purpose of this interaction can be improved; performance, relations, product, and/or services, and more efficient use of shared resources. At the input/feedback level, it is important to let everyone know that you are working at this level. The decision is still that of the organization, you are only soliciting feedback and input, which may or may not alter a pending decision. If the decision has already been made, call it education.

     ~ Collaboration: Sometimes it is important to not only share and collect information, but also to share decisions and ownership. Collaboration allows for shared leadership, decisions, ownership, vision, and responsibility.  It discovers solutions and expands capacity within the organization and the community.  As with all levels, collaboration may only deal with a limited and predefined issue, which may be adjusted as the collaboration continues.

(Note, these levels are not always clear and concise.  There are always many variations of each level and degrees between each level.  In order to increase the chance for success, everyone needs to be clear on the Level of Collaboration and Level of Authority from the beginning and any time during the process when it might change.  In a true collaboration, the expectations, degree of collaboration, and sometimes, level of authority will be negotiated or derived from the collaboration.)

"With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions."
Lincoln's remarks in the first Lincoln-Douglas debate  (August 21, 1858)


I have heard the following story a number of times in conferences and workshops.  It can be found all over the internet and as far as I can ascertain, the author is unknown.  I also do not know for sure of it's accuracy; however it demonstrates a good point.

The Sense of the Goose           

In the fall when you see geese heading south for the winter flying along in the "V" formation, you might be interested in knowing what science has discovered about why they fly that way. It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

PEOPLE WHO ARE PART OF A TEAM AND SHARE A COMMON DIRECTION GET WHERE THEY ARE GOING QUICKER AND EASIER, BECAUSE THEY ARE TRAVELING ON THE TRUST OF ONE ANOTHER.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go through it alone and quickly
gets back into formation to take advantage of the power of the flock.

IF WE HAVE AS MUCH SENSE AS A GOOSE, WE WILL SHARE INFORMATION WITH THOSE WHO ARE HEADED THE SAME WAY WE ARE GOING.

When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose takes over.

IT PAYS TO SHARE LEADERSHIP AND TAKE TURNS DOING HARD JOBS.

The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep their speed.

WORDS OF SUPPORT AND INSPIRATION HELP ENERGIZE THOSE ON THE FRONT LINE, HELPING THEM TO KEEP PACE IN SPITE OF THE DAY-TO-DAY PRESSURES AND FATIGUE.

Finally, when a goose gets sick or is wounded by a gunshot and falls out, two geese fall out of the formation and follow the injured one down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly or until he is dead, and then they launch out with another formation to catch up with their group.

IF WE HAVE THE SENSE OF A GOOSE, WE WILL STAND BY EACH OTHER WHEN THINGS GET ROUGH, and even when they're not.