Tuesday, 28 March 2017

This is how a collaborative person works: 4. introduce partners to their new selves

(This post draws heavily upon the experiences of Paul Macalindin as described in his book Upbeat, which chronicles his inspiring work with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq.)


'The most ironic culture shock for them was the prevalence of new music, especially from Gordon Mcpherson and Peter Maxwell Davies. It took the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq for young Edinburgh musicians to play (new) Scottish orchestral music.'

From Upbeat: the Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq by Paul Macalindin


Paul is describing how, during its tour of the UK, the NYOI was able to introduce young Scottish musicians to new Scottish music. The somewhat conservative classical music scene in Scotland did not include such music in its programmes very often.

Those living within a community do not always have the opportunity to engage with and appreciate what is new and emerging within it. There are different and inter-related reasons for this: the prevalence of traditional and established practices and tastes; lack of awareness and knowledge of current developments (coupled with a lack of access to them); the comfort of the familiar and the ease of following habit as opposed to the discomfort of the unfamiliar and the difficulty and sometimes embarrassing awkwardness of learning something new.

Whatever the reasons, collaborative initiatives (especially those between partners from within and outside communities) offer the opportunity to introduce people to their communities' innovations and new ideas, perhaps for the first time.

The eyes and actions of partners on the outside of a community are not so readily blinkered and restrained by the traditions and habits existing within it. Outsider partners are also more willing to explore not only what is traditional and established within a community but also what is innovative and new: if making the effort to find out about the former it is plain common sense to do the same for the latter.    

So if you find yourself working as an outsider with partners from inside communities, recognise that you may have the opportunity to introduce your partners to their new selves: to the new and emerging ideas and developments that are so close to them but with which they may have had little or no experience.

What is more, you can do this in the most collaborative, natural and acceptable of ways: you can find and learn about the new things together, just like Paul, the NYOI and the young Scottish musicians.

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