Ways to Work Better Collectively

Ways to Work Better Collectively

Why include a section about working together in our Nature section?

We believe that addressing the issues of how we treat nature are intertwined with three things:

  • How well or not humans collaborate
  • The concentration of power
  • Who really gets to decide what problems are addressed

Because we do not generally collaborate well, those with lots of money and power often get to decide for us what will change. We have noticed how much can change quickly during COVID and most recently during the Russian invasion of Ukraine (March 2022) how banking, finance and companies can make life changing international decisions in a week when the desire to change is there.

It’s easy to get into a debate about whether or not people really want to make the changes needed to protect the planet or if it’s being chosen for them, but a lot of evidence has shown how information is hidden or manipulated to protect the very profitable status quo.

When a need for change is finally agreed upon, the hows of  the change causes further disagreement which delays any actual change. Look at the long arc of climate change and fossil fuels. 

At WEAll CA, we believe that collective will and collective action are needed for significant change to occur.

To that end, we feel that we need to think deeply about collective action and learn how to collaborate better to effect change.

Why is Collaboration So Hard for Us

Debate over this issue could be fun and never-ending. Are we naturally bad at collaboration? Did we accidentally get worse at it over time?  Some argue that wedge issues (divisive political issues) are exacerbated to make collaborating harder. Are people born “bad” and have to learn to be “good” or the other way around? Are Indigenous cultures better at collaboration and practicing deep democracy than western cultures?

We don’t need to resolve how it came to be, but we can notice some of what makes collaboration harder today:

  • We bring to each situation different knowledge, experiences and perspectives.
  • It is easy to slip into a closed mindset.
  • The greater the number of people or groups involved increases the complexity of coming to consensus.
  • We are used to hierarchical methods of decision making and less experienced in truly democratic, all-inclusive decision making processes.
  • Our scale has drastically increased. We started with small scale communities, then moved to larger communities, then cities, then states and finally to an expansive, diverse country. Now, we realize that the whole planet is really one large ecosystem and our individual country’s decisions really affect all of us around the world.
  • Bad faith actors – who are producing misinformation to derail democratic processes.
  • When a challenge seems too large, some of us move into denial, pass off the problem to others to handle for us, or just become frozen in inaction.
  • We have a belief that change is unpleasant and scary; although, we seem to adapt to change fairly well over the long-term.

How To Become Better at Collaboration

A Collaboration Mindset – Doing the inner work allows us to see more about ourselves and how we may be limiting our options by having very fixed beliefs. 

An open and aware mindset allows us to be aware of when our egos or fears are reducing our options. This mental flexibility allows us to focus ourselves on positive options, setting a positive vision and expectation that can focus on meaning, joy, and connection.

Systems and Narratives Awareness – When we begin to explore the interconnection between all of life, it changes how we approach issues. A key part of this is recognizing narratives and who is pushing what narrative. The phrases “Colonial” or “Extractive” are really explaining a narrative where some people are considering themselves more deserving than others. 

The Colonial narrative is uncomfortable for many people and many people reject that it exists.   Or perhaps they believe it’s a relic from another time and that it’s not intentionally employed. An open mindset allows you to see someone is using a narrative and then have the freedom of mind to decide what to do with that information. A great book on seeing colonial narratives is Sherri Mitchell’s SACRED INSTRUCTIONS.

Another gift from systems thinking is understanding that the health of the whole is essential for any component to thrive. With that awareness, better outcomes can be achieved.

Collaboration Skills – Understanding how to forge alignment between people is a key skill. We experience it as hard for 2 people and therefore also experience it as exponentially harder for 20, 100 or 1000 people. This is why some people revert to the power dynamics of control and hierarchy. 

Can we commit ourselves to learning these skills over the next ten years? If we can, then we can become more organized and focused and achieve more. Many groups focus just on facilitation techniques, such as the Art of Hosting, Weavers, and Center for Purposeful Leadership. 

Coalition Skills – For this topic, let’s define collaboration as collaboration within a group and coalition skills as group to group collaboration. This could be different groups with a similar focus learning how to collaborate better, such as climate focused groups cooperating to get specific legislation passed. Or, it might be diverse groups learning to work together. An example would be a collaboration between companies, nonprofits and governments coming together to tackle a specific challenge. Collaboration between groups inherently requires all the skills we discussed earlier but with new nuances and complexities. Therefore, achieving alignment and letting go of ego can be even harder in these settings.

Coalitions can be long-term or perhaps come together for a one-off hackathon style event.

As an example, Wellbeing Economist Marianna Mazzacuto is urging us to create government-led collaborations in the style of the “Moonshot” collaboration challenge that President Kennedy laid out when he was elected. Could we collectively work together to get to the moon in under a decade? We did.

Zaid Hassan and Steve Waddell have both written books about social innovation hubs where people come together to take on big social challenges. Xprize Foundation has created competitions and awarded prizes for all sorts of social innovations.

Technical Collaboration – The last twenty years have seen so much innovation in connection and collaboration tools. Our plan for Version 2.0 of this Resource Center is to have features that allow those of us working towards a Wellbeing Economy to work together in new ways⁠—i.e., share information, good practices, and resources and help partners connect with each other.

Resource

Partners

  • Catalyst 2030
  • Weavers
  • Local Energy Resources Network
  • CivicWell

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