Sunday, May 8, 2011

Advice for Building a Collaborative

I received an email from a woman who had written a grant proposal to expand an existing program. The funding agency referred her to me. At the risk of this sounding like an advice column, here is an excerpt.
Through the process of applying for the grant, I became interested in opening up the decision making that we do, and otherwise improving our group process to broaden the base of support – and I don't mean only financially. We‘re really seeing a need for it – this is the type of program that we feel can be so very beneficial for a community, and we'd love to see it grow and spread and we'd love to find ways we can facilitate that. We have put tons of time into it, and realize that we simply can't keep it up ourselves – we need to bring others in somehow. We‘re right now in the thick of getting going for this year‘s program. I'd really like to concentrate on the above. Do you have any advice for us?

I'd be glad to help out.

Here are some preliminary suggestions for building a collaborative. I think it is useful to distinguish convening a group (as in getting the group together) from facilitating a group (as in facilitating a meeting). In the convening stage, which is the stage I think you're at now, it's useful to think about four things.

1. Meaning. People will get involved in your collaborative if it has meaning to them. A statement of purpose is useful. Think about creating one as a vehicle for engaging others and inviting them into the collaborative. Be willing to accept their comments and revise the “purpose” accordingly.

2. Understanding. It is important for the participating individuals and organizations to understand each other – their purposes, how they work, their short- and long-term needs, their understanding of important issues and problems. And to have genuine understandings replace misconceptions and presumptions

3. Choices. You mentioned that you want to “open up the decision making that we do.” It might be useful to make a list of the decisions you‘re making, especially those that have an impact on the purpose. Again, think about this as a vehicle for engaging others and inviting them into the collaborative.

4. Relationships. Whose involvement would help accomplish the purpose? For whom would this collaborative be meaningful? Whose expertise and perspective would be valuable in making those decisions? What role would it be useful for them to play in the collaborative?

Meaning is what we want.
Understanding is what we need.
Choices are what we make.
Relationships are what we have.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sandy - I like the way you think and write. Sometimes I get really confused by the jargon - don't know what people are talking about. Your five points give words to my experience of good group work. Thanks - Elissa


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