“There is a rapidly growing trend in our community. Now more than ever before organizations are venturing into the territory of initiating and co-managing collaborative projects, initiatives, events and ongoing programs.”

Collaboration or partnerships are not new, however,  recent economic shifts have resulted in direct impacts on government, business, and the non-profit sector, making collaboration even more essential. In fact, soon it will no longer be optional or an add-on. Rather, some say we are headed into a new era where collaboration will become fundamental to the way everything in a community gets done. The old ways of segregation, “silos,” and competition within and between sectors are no longer viable or sustainable, regardless of which sector you are in.

For most of us collaborating starts very early in life, while playing in the sandbox or on the playground. For human beings collaborating is natural and necessary for survival. Collaborating in its essence is “working together” on a common goal or towards a common purpose. Whether as children learning to share or adults learning to partner and collaborate we have to be taught “how to”. We are often taught this both intrinsically by watching role models around us and/or extrinsically by watching an experienced person actively teaching, correcting, coaching and guiding us, explaining it step by step, and rewarding us when we think and act in a collaborative way.

“Only when a paradigm has ceased to be functional can a new one emerge.”

From Power to Partnership – Creating the Future of Love, Work, and Community by Alfonso Montuori & Isabella Conti

There are many different types and levels of collaboration, from the simple and straightforward as ‘piggybacking’ all the way through to partnerships. Sometimes we enter into collaborations accidentally, sometimes very intentionally. We may find we have the same idea at the same time as another individual or organization, and rather than duplicate or compete we begin to explore collaborating. Or, we may have an idea for a project but not have the resources or experience/expertise to undertake it alone, and the search then begins for a suitable partner who may bring or help leverage the necessary resources. No matter what type, size, or duration of the collaboration, they are all dynamic, constantly evolving, and therefore require on-going, dedicated attention.

Collaborations can bring unexpected rewards and bring out both the best and the worst in us (individually and organizationally). In order for the collaboration or partnership to reach and achieve its full potential, many ingredients need to be in place. One of the most important ingredients is trust. Trust forms the foundation for the collaboration.

Trust can be there at the start, especially if there is a history of a positive relationship between the collaborating parties. When a collaboration takes place between parties that have not had a previous connection, trust can develop and grow, usually gradually, over time.

At the start of a collaboration both parties are filled with that ‘first blush’ from the initial surge of energy we get when we connect, find common ground, vision, and purpose. This is what inspires both parties to move forward together. If we have not had much experience with collaborative projects we may be naive about what to expect from ourselves, the other party, and the process. Collaborations may seem like they will make the work easier at the start, but as we get into them, we realize that to fulfil the potential of the collaboration demands a lot from us and it is not as easy as it may have first appeared.

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