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Sunday 8 March 2015

Bite-size pieces: the 'Landowners' Objections'

A South African collaboration seeking to enhance the well-being and standard of living of mining communities included local communities, mining companies, the regional government and traditional tribal landowners. Each time the collaboration sought to provide resources and amenities that would enhance the lives of mining communities the tribal landowners held things up, keen to safeguard the rights of their tribe rather than those of the mine workers who were, for the most part, newly arrived migrants from elsewhere in Africa. Sometimes the tribal landowners were extreme in their opposition, for example demolishing buildings built for the regional government that they regarded as violating their traditional land rights.

The traditional tribal landowners generated significant negative value within the collaboration through their consistent and visible opposition to its activities.

'Landowners' Objections' false-value partners can be actual, as per the above example, or they can be a metaphor for something else, e.g., possessing specialist knowledge and expertise, or 'owning the moral high ground'. They tend to emerge in situations where there are strong vested interests and a bias towards political manoeuvring and power plays.

It is not always wise to avoid 'Landowners' Objections' false-value partners. If they have power and influence within the environment surrounding a collaboration it is best to invite them to become partners and tolerate the negative value they contribute. Then, informal ties and relationships can gradually be created that will enable a collaboration to recognise and exploit changes of stance or situation potentially favourable to its aims. Also, keeping this type of partner within the collaboration tent, rather than allowing it to roam freely and mark off its own territory, enhances a collaboration's ability to anticipate and manage the damage it can cause.

From Sleeping with the Enemy - Achieving Collaborative Success
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