Brett Tolley, NAMA's community organizer and part of the Slow Fish network, delivers us his thoughs on successful collaboration, first posted on Nama's blog.
“Collaborate for impact, make connections, learn and innovate, catalyze change, dwell in possibilities, incite hope and the love that does justice.”
I read this quote the other day on the Interaction Institute’s blog and immediately scratched the words into my mini-chalkboard, hanging on the wall in my Brooklyn apartment where I’ve spent the past couple months thinking a lot about collaboration.
What does collaboration mean? What are the conditions that help a collaborative succeed or fail?
These questions have been on my mind a lot lately because at NAMA we’ve been partnering in several network building and collaborative change efforts – from the Coming Clean Collaborative, to the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, to the New England Food Solutions Network (just to name a few).
Back in April the Fish Locally Collaborative held its 3rd Assembly in New Bedford, MA. Over 60 people from around the world attended, including fishermen, fishing families, youth activists, food justice advocates, health care system workers, conservation groups, new economy people, and more.
We're all working to advance a collaborative model that we believe will shift the seafood system, protect the ocean, and ensure a future for community-based fishermen.
You can hear more about the FLC Assembly on Susan Youman’s radio program “What’s for Dinner
?” where she interviewed me last week.
But what exactly makes a collaborative?
Is it simply having the whole be greater than the sum of its parts? Take this cartoon for instance.
Or is it more than that, where strategy and vision are involved? Here is another definition.
Collaboration is “a mutually beneficial relationship between two or more parties to achieve common goals by sharing responsibility, authority and accountability for achieving results. It is more than simply sharing knowledge and information (communication) and more than a relationship that helps each party achieve its own goals (cooperation and coordination). The purpose of collaboration is to create a shared vision and joint strategies to address concerns that go beyond the purview of any particular party.”
- David Chrislip and Chip Larson, 1994, p. 5
One more thing I think these definitions leave out - which I've found to be key: values.
Underpinning any collaborative, network, or movement’s long-term success is a strong set of values. Values unite people on a fundamental level and help build trust. Trust fosters more effective teamwork and teamwork gets things done!
FLC principles: transparency, collaboration, justice, capacity-building,
respect, inclusivity, openness, accountability.
A clear set of values can build bridges across any one given issue and can allow us to see others’ struggles in our own. One of the most common bridges that link the struggle of family fishers is the struggle of family farmers - and this bridge allows us to collaborate across movements.
Next week, we'll see this in action at the NYC Left Forum
where NAMA will be on a panel with FLC members and collaborators at the National Family Farm Coalition
to talk about fish grabs and land grabs. It's a great example of where our overlapping values can amplify our messages.
I’m motivated and energized by watching the Fish Locally Collaborative evolve. What started six years ago with a dozen people in Maine has now grown to include nearly 500 individuals and 60 organizations representing 400,000 fishing families around the states and internationally. New England, Alaska, British Columbia, Mexico, Nova Scotia, Italy, France, Oregon, Gulf of Mexico, South Carolina, California, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere."
“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean."