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Tuesday 25 June 2019

Secrets of successful collaboration: 21. make time and space for personal thought and reflection within the collaborative process

Collaborations require different types of time and space to be incorporated into their processes. The need for formal and informal time and space was previously dealt with here. In addition, collaborations need to ensure that their processes offer each partner time and space for personal thought and reflection. There are two reasons for this:
  1. To ensure collaborations benefit from each partner's unique expertise, experience, perceptions and insights, etc.: before offering ideas and other contributions that are likely to add value to and help progress a collaboration's work, each partner needs personal time to become familiar with the relevant context and compare and combine his/her expertise, experience and perceptions with those of others.     
  2. To ensure that relationships between partners are permissive and interdependent rather than restraining and cohesive: being willing and able to provide each other with some personal space (alone time) to think things through is one of the key foundations upon which mutually respectful and supportive relationships that accept difference are built; not being willing and able to provide each partner with the personal space to think things through is one of the key causes of mutually restrictive and demanding relationships that are intolerant of differences between partners.                  
Creating permissiveness and interdependence underpins the previously described characteristics of meta-relationships: it is the nutrient that feeds their growth. Two characteristics benefit from this nutrient particularly strongly: being tolerant of challenges to each other's long-held assumptions and preferred ways of doing things, and (because creating mutual trust and interdependence requires partners to work together closely and, as a consequence, get to know each other well) making decisions and taking action based upon knowledge based realism rather than assumption-based idealism.

Some collaborations have ensured there is time and space for personal thought and reflection by separating personal work from collaborative work: they have given each type of work defined time periods during the day or week and separate spaces where each can happen. 

The collaborative wiki approach does a similar thing: contributors can write and edit content privately and without interruption, with the process of collaborative peer review and comment following separately.

To read the full post click here.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Secrets of successful collaboration: 20. encourage self-governing rules to emerge from within collaborations

The mutual trust and interdependence essential to developing meta-relationships can also be encouraged by creating an environment where partners rely on and encourage each other to act appropriately. Partners can create this environment by resisting externally imposed and policed rules and agreeing and implementing self-generated and self-governing rules.

All collaborative initiatives need rules to govern their activities and the behaviour of their partners. If these rules are imposed and policed by external agencies, they can hinder progress. This is because rules imposed from outside a collaboration remove significant responsibilities from partners: they disempower partners. If rules are generated and policed from within a collaboration, they are likely to support progress. This is because rules generated from within a collaboration give responsibilities to partners: they empower partners. These responsibilities include two of great significance: responsibility for personal behaviour, and responsibility for developing relationships with others.

The effects of this shifting of responsibility are clearly illustrated by this example from Nepal. Here, government authorities imposed rules for managing forest resources upon the people who lived in the forests. Responsibility for the management of forest resources having been removed from the local population, an "every person for themselves" attitude emerged that endangered forest resources and frayed and cut relationships between government representatives and local people (and between the local people themselves).

Later, the government authorities having realised their mistake, the people who lived in the forests were invited to create their own rules for managing forest resources. Responsibility for managing forest resources having been placed upon the local population, a "we're all in this together attitude" emerged that safeguarded forest resources and encouraged local people and government authorities to form mutually beneficial and interdependent relationships; collaborative meta-relationships had begun to develop between government representatives and local people, and between the local people themselves.

To read the full post click here.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Secrets of successful collaboration: 19. co-create unique artefacts that will facilitate the emergence of mutually understood and agreed collaborative processes

As well as adapting existing tools and techniques to their needs and purposes, partners can co-create unique artefacts (tools, checklists, techniques, etc.) that will help them address their collaboration's specific requirements and challenges.

The close collaboration required to co-create these artefacts, plus the positive feelings and enhanced self-esteem associated with having taken the opportunity to contribute something not only unique but also useful to the collaboration (and most likely to others outside of it, so enhancing its reputation and perceived worth) can positively transform partners' interactions and relationships; increased mutual trust, and with it partners' increased willingness to welcome each other's interdependence, can hugely enhance overall collaborative effectiveness.               

The artefacts created do not have to be complex. Indeed, some of the most effective can be very simple. Such an artefact was co-created during the DREAM-IT programme in Mongolia. 

This programme, which sought to identify how best to encourage the socio-economic development of Mongolia through the use of information and communication technology (ICT), brought together key players (donors, recipients, project members, and evaluation experts) to collect, discuss and analyse evaluation findings concerning the effectiveness of DREAM-IT's various projects.

During this process, the expertise, experience, perspectives and ideas of all those involved eventually (and unexpectedly) combined to create a checklist for the planning and implementation of innovative projects.

The evaluation findings had found that projects that needed to be significantly innovative had not performed well and that, if they were to improve, they would need to be worked with and managed differently. The checklist, which was created by Mongolian researchers (with significant input from the other key players mentioned above) encouraged new collaborative and management processes to develop and embed themselves within the DREAM-IT programme of projects: funders began to use the checklist to work collaboratively with applicants who were requesting support for innovative projects, and leaders of innovation focused projects began leading and managing in ways appropriate to the planning and implementation issues associated with working creatively to achieve innovative goals. 

In addition, the sense of having contributed to creating a practical and useful tool that would significantly enhance the effectiveness of the programme bolstered the confidence of the local Mongolian managers and researchers and motivated and encouraged everyone (including governmental and international partners) to continue developing their collaborative relationships and processes.

To read the full post click here.

Monday 17 June 2019

Secrets of successful collaboration: 18. identify emerging collaborative processes by using visual tools adapted to your needs

The collaborative processes that emerge from the interactions between partners will not always be immediately recognisable. Those that arise naturally from day-to-day interactions rather than being formally co-created and agreed, either becoming informally agreed "given the nod" ways of working or habitual (often unhelpful) approaches individual partners use when interacting with specific partners or types of partner, can develop and establish themselves beyond a collaboration's conscious awareness.

To bring these informal understanding and habits into a collaboration's conscious awareness, they need to be seen clearly. Then, partners can form an accurate and shared picture of the way they are working with each other and identify and address snags that have appeared within the collaborative system (as well as strengthen and encourage informal practices of proven worth).

Rich pictures and pictor diagrams (which are a visually engaging type of sociogram) can be used to highlight the above mentioned understandings and habits. If some aspects of these tools can be co-created and owned by all those that use them (as was the case with the pictor diagram example given within the above link), then the benefit to the collaborative process will be three-fold. In addition to being able to identify and address snags and identify and encourage informal practices of proven worth, partners will (through the task of adapting the tools to their specific needs and preferences) enhance their interactions with each other and their ability to assimilate differing perceptions and ideas; the act of co-creating ways to enhance their understanding of their collaborative relationships and process will, of itself, enhance their collaborative relationships and process.

To read the full post click here.