(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. To read more posts in this series go to the March to August 2017 Blog Archive on your right.)
'The Iraq Foundation had never done this before, and we needed to deeply understand local promotion and pricing structure to sell seats. So, trusting my instincts, I contacted the most powerful social network in town, the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC. They were fabulous. Their President gave me the complete low-down on performing there. The National Youth Orchestra of Iraq faced yet another ludicrous irony of receiving more support from them than from the Iraqi Culture Centre.'
From Upbeat: the Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq by Paul Macalindin
Because they often seek to achieve new things, collaborative initiatives ask new questions and seek new types of support. Mainstream organisations often find it difficult to answer these questions and provide this support.
The reasons for this can be political (what the collaboration is seeking to achieve is counter to the organisation's current policy or political goals), procedural (an organisation's systems and bureaucracy are unable to recognise and process the questions asked or comprehend the nature of the support requested), or cultural (the collaboration's activities challenge the attitudes and customs the organisation represents). It may also be that the mainstream organisation simply does not have the relevant experience, expertise or resources to deal with the questions and requests.
Whatever the reasons, collaborations needing to be innovative must seek out new channels towards different and often non-mainstream organisations possessing the attitudes, experiences and expertise, etc., that enable them to willingly provide the answers and support requested.
This is what Paul did when he contacted the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC and requested their help and advice about arranging concerts in their city. Being outside the mainstream 'official' channels but never-the-less firmly and influentially embedded in the musical life of Washington, the Chorus was uniquely placed to empathise with the needs of the NYOI (itself on the fringes of mainstream Iraqi culture), understand its goals and offer support and advice to help it achieve them.
When your collaboration needs answers to previously unasked questions, or it needs help and support for new and innovative activities, by all means go through the usual channels to try and get them.
But also ask yourself the following question: 'Who is most likely to be politically, procedurally and culturally aligned with your purpose and goals and have the experience and expertise you seek?' However initially surprising the direction and eventual destination, go to where this question leads you.
Then ask for and accept the help most willingly offered.