Collaboration is a great word with a great meaning that calls for great work to yield the desired great result.
I was invited, through and with my colleagues, to train a group of ‘social workers’ from the DSWD-CAR for the Kalahi-CIDSS on this particular topic: collaboration and networking. I feel honored to be speaking to a group of individuals who are working in this program to alleviate poverty. I realized, this is an opportunity for a private individual like me to help out – somehow to collaborate with the public sector in this particular project.
You and I are called to collaborate – whatever organization we are part of and whatever role we are taking.
This is needed not just in community projects but in almost any project. Collaboration is where individuals work together to achieve a common purpose. But it is not as easy as defining it. It would require an understanding of its value and its objective.
It is also important to understand that collaboration is a process and there are phases it would go through. I noted four phases: connection, coordination, cooperation, and then collaboration. It has to go through each. It would be difficult to jump to the collaboration phase immediately. First, it is important that the individuals get to know each other first. (This is the networking part.) Second, they need to coordinate and set each one’s roles and responsibilities. Next, the parties need to share principles and practices. Finally, they come to a point of collaboration as they execute their plans and monitor their progress; part of monitoring is the feedback mechanism that may call for adjustments along the way.
These phases could be done formally or informally depending on the set-up of the project or on the objectives. What’s important is for the individuals involved to know that there are phases they shall go through. In the process, mutual respect and trust should be planted and nurtured.
During the process, challenges are expected to arise. Individuals coming together from different backgrounds, upbringing, culture, personalities, preferences, and styles may lead to conflicts, misunderstandings, and confusions. But being aware of these probable challenges and employing sound stances and strategies to diffuse possible problems and transform these differences into a unified strength would result to the desired outcome of collaboration.
Differences may arise, for instance, because of different perceptions. When you ask a roomful of people what they think when they hear the word “money” – expect that you will receive different answers because of varying perceptions. Perception may have been programmed by the past of each person which may include his or her upbringing, education, and experiences. When you say a statement like “Tax rates should be lessened.” – expect that you will receive different views because of differing perspectives. Perspectives may depend on the person’s positioning which may be defined by his profession, role, or status.
Considering these differences and the reasons of these differences, one cannot instantly say that the other is right and the other is wrong. At first, a person’s perception and perspective may seem illogical but when you understand where they are coming from, you may conclude that what they say could be logical. Now that would call for a different response.
In collaborative activities, each individual has to know these possible differences and their reasons to be able adjust accordingly. Note that understanding where another person is coming from does not necessarily mean agreement with. It just means you understand the point! And to be able to state or defend an alternative point, you have to explain it in a way that is understood and appreciated from the point of view of the other person.
Differences in personalities may also cause misunderstanding. Styles and preferences could even add to the problem. But awareness of these things could help diffuse the bomb that may explode the group and turn it into something productive like a bonfire on a camping trip that attracts individuals to come together to share songs and stories amidst the differences.
All these considerations are very vital in collaboration. Nonetheless, collaborative effort always starts from the collaborative stance of each individual involved. Thus, before an individual can collaborate, how he thinks, feels, and act should be set in a way that supports collaboration even before a collaborative effort is initiated.
There are available strategies to set these things up so that the move to collaborate would be healthy in a way that the common objective is achieved, each individual gives his or her best, and each benefits in the process. These concepts and strategies, we shall crystallize with my audience as we would cite practical examples and actionable tips during the collaborative session. I invite you to learn more on this area. After all, almost always, you and I are in a collaborative process. Often, we do not even call it collaboration. It just happens. But to get the winning results we all wanted, we need to be intentional about it as we go through the process.
Do you share the merits of the concepts mentioned? In your experience, what are the strategies you find effective – may it be based on a company or a community project?
In every project, as we move to collaborate, we are reminded of these concepts and strategies so that as we further the attainment of the project objective, we also further the growth of all involved – our growth. After all, this is what we want when we collaborate. We want to win together. And together, we shall win!