Travels Revealed That a Shift is Happening

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and learning as I, along with one of my Twyfords’ colleagues, have been meeting with folks from a number of sectors in New Zealand. From health to water to housing to literacy and more, these people are all operating in complex situations and collaboration is on many people’s lips.

I am grateful for the time that people gave us and grateful for the opportunity to explore, learn and reflect about collaborative practice as it applies to complex social challenges in Aotearoa. We have an ocean of complexity to work with so it is heartening that there are so many committed and talented swimmers out there making a difference.

The following are some lessons that were reinforced for me on this trip:

There is no one size fits all for collaborative processes. Thinking and behaving as if there is contradicts the essence of collaboration. Collaboration HAS to work for those living locally. Certainly your collaborative process in Place X may have worked really well but this doesn’t mean it will work in the same way in Place Y.

Those with lived experience must be at the core of the collaborative process.
Decision-making by people without lived experience who design solutions for and to others is highly likely to trigger endless cycles of similar decisions and will not solve the complex challenge at hand. Instead those with traditional decision-making power must work to understand and walk collaborative practice. This is most likely to support those on the ground to co-create and implement innovative solutions.

Context is crucial. We at Twyfords are increasingly learning the importance of distinguishing between context and content. Having a disproportionate content focus with your collaborative activities can lead to slippage towards Business as Usual where innovation is project managed away. Maintaining an eye on context where diversity is embraced and the big picture of connections is always in mind helps keep to a collaborative frame.

Wanting control is common; letting go is hard for everyone involved in a collaborative process. As humans we have been conditioned to fix things and know the answers. Further we have performance frameworks that celebrate individual success. Shifting to a collaborative frame that embraces not knowing and sharing in collective success is a challenging journey.

You can only learn by doing. Embodying a collaborative way of operating can only happen with practice. You can read all the texts in the world, yet it isn’t until you are face to face with the lows and highs of collaboration that you can go to a new place.

Reflection is crucial. Too often, those working with complexity are so immersed in the content of the work that they do not take the time to reflect. These conversations over the past week have reinforced that it is powerful to take the time for reflective conversation. This bends the beam of observation back on ourselves and assists us to do things even better next time.

In summary, these travels have shown that there is a growing capacity for collaborative fitness right across New Zealand. This is exciting and like all transitions, could be painful as we experience the shift from Business as Usual (BAU) to Collaboration As a Norm (CAN).

CAN we do it? Yes we CAN.

Comments are closed.