Illustrating a path toward collaboration

Illustrating a path toward collaboration

Posted on February 20, 2014 by Pam Truitt

This is my third post in a series about The Patterson Foundation’s facilitation work with Cultural Connections on Anna Maria Island. Rather than an end, this is a transition.

During one of the early facilitations, Dr. Sandy Hughes, a nationally recognized governance consultant, drew a pyramid on a piece of poster paper and stuck it to the wall. We were in a conversation about collaboration and Dr. Hughes was challenging the group to “dig deeper." It seemed as if there was real desire to move forward collaboratively, but how? Then she sketched the picture and drew the group into a conversation—and understanding—of the collaboration process.

Trust is the foundation and supports the collaboration. This stage is all about letting your hair down without embarrassment or repercussions. When doing the interviews, we were listening to determine if folks were comfortable enough with one another to be able to be open and vulnerable. The first blog also spoke to the varying levels of participation and commitment in Cultural Connections. As the facilitation progressed, we observed commitment to the process was also leveraging trust-building.

Conflict is the best example of why it’s necessary to develop trust. When conflicts arise, and they will, solid relationships will go a long way toward working through issues. It’s also healthy (and necessary) for everyone to have the opportunity to cuss and discuss their ideas of how things should be handled.

Commitment is the center piece of the pyramid but doesn’t represent the highest point. As Cultural Connections folks learned, it’s not easy to make a commitment to ‘do something’ if your inner voice is telling you that you’re not ready. This is the space to develop clarity and buy-in. Cultural Connections have paused on this platform. (More on that later.)

• Accountability is another name for supporting team mates. Most humans will get off track on occasion and need support getting back into the flow—including remembering they made a commitment. This stage is also a good spot to make sure that individual goals and personal status are not eroding the focus of collective success.

Measurement! The pinnacle of collaborative efforts. If the folks who are in the collaboration have minded the process and have not let egos or individual statuses derail the plan—it is time to celebrate and measure success! Keep the focus on the goals set during the commitment process. Seeing the teamwork pyramid helped the Cultural Connections understand where they were.

And where are they now?

Commitment. At the last session, the six organizations prioritized five areas they could pursue collaboratively during the next year and then voted on the top two. The voting showed that, holistically, they were moving in the same direction. During the meeting, many insights were shared, reflecting their growth. At this point, there is so much momentum and excitement, but we know that collaboration takes work, so I’ll end where I started:

"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."

Henry Ford

Each of the organizations participating in the Cultural Connections sessions has told Dr. Hughes and I how much they appreciated the opportunity to learn and grow. The Patterson Foundation is flexible and was able to go with the flow. We know from our own experience in the collaboration space that five key ingredients are needed: leadership, willingness, readiness, capacity and culture. Cultural Connections members will need to embrace these principles in order to effect change and move up the collaboration ladder.

Chris Collins, an Artist Guild board member, recently told me that while the path didn’t lead to the original objective—sharing back-office functions—the lessons learned were extremely valuable. They had never thought about how much more they could do together.

Cultural Connections members— Anna Maria Island Art League, Artist Guild Gallery of Anna Maria Island,

Anna Maria Island Community Chorus & Orchestra, Island Players Theater, Anna Maria Island Historical Society and the Anna Maria Island Community Center — will have potential to be stronger together.

We will not abandon them, but our role will diminish over time. We will always be available to assist when/if greater depth and leverage requires an outside perspective. We will miss the regular sessions, but there is promise that our waist lines will get a little smaller!

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


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