Creating Collaboration Soup

Creating Collaboration Soup

Posted on December 11, 2015 by Pam Truitt

Kudos to GEO for taking on the collaboration space during the GEO Collaboration conference. Everyone demands it. Success can be elusive but rewards transformational. What I know—and affirmed by conference sessions—is that behavior is key. Nurturing Shared Nonprofit Leadership provided many insights to the dynamics of collaborative leadership.

Elissa Perry opened the session by sharing her experiences. I really appreciate her insights which helped me make sense of some disconnected thoughts about the DNA of successful collaborations. Her tips are invaluable.

Remember that collaborations are only a vehicle to get you somewhere so expect change throughout the process.

Shared leadership: If you get this statement the rest of Perry’s insight falls into place. So throw out the business-as-usual mindset and breathe in new learnings! Sharing is intuitive, but doesn’t come naturally. Sharing includes access to expanded roles and opportunities; leadership and leadership development; interdependent relationships throughout the ecosystem built on trust--expect pushback from folks who feel threatened by the non-traditional leadership styles needed to make collaborations work.

Be nimble: The very nature of collaboratives is dynamic and it’s important that the system move—as best it can—together. Among the key strategies is open, honest and continuous communication built on trust. Attaching to a particular type of structure or approach will create challenges to achieving goals.

Mission over organization. Ecosystem over ego system: Effective collaborations spend time developed a shared vision, principals and guidelines and interdependent relationships with donors/funders, staff, volunteers and board members that are built on trust.

Know when to chill: Collaborations need space to work out conflicts. Partners shouldn't take sides as it erodes trust. If the collaboration doesn’t include at least one team member with conflict management skills, consider hiring a facilitator.

Note: How many times did 'trust' come up??

The room was packed and it seemed that everyone brought burning questions. What should I do when…….How should this be handled…….I found the questions fascinating and share a few with readers.

How do we help folks understand that collaborative work requires a different type of leadership?

What kind of capacity needs to be in place for collaboration to succeed?

How do you broker collaboration when trust isn’t present? (You can’t)

How do you assess the readiness of grantees for a collaboration?

How to prevent egos getting in the way of authentic conversations?

How do we break silos?

How to foster entrepreneurial spirit along with mission & vision?

How do you support collaborative conversations?

How to get conversations going when a culture of collaboration is absent?

How do you get reluctant leadership to see collaboration as smart and strategic?

How do you manage leadership or funding changes in a collaboration?

I could list 20 more questions but you get the point. Lots of interest and lots of different perspectives. There is clearly a thirst to know more. I don’t know many of the answers and ask readers to join the conversation.

What questions can you address?

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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