Collaboration

My change initiative required the collaboration of a diverse stakeholder group– otherwise it would be impossible to accomplish. Building a plan or framework for quality services to be delivered to people with disabilities required that I hone in on Atlee’s  idea of power with in that I could not build a tool without acknowledging and embracing the needs and ideas of the people who would be effected by this change initiative.

Below you will find my final coursework reflection from my time in the Collaboration class and a full list of objectives that the course offered.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explore concepts of collaboration in human interaction.

  2. Articulate contemporary understandings of power and privilege differentials in organizations and society.

  3. Identify and engage stakeholders to achieve definable goals.

  4. Create conditions for stakeholders to synthesize diverse perspectives in group settings.

  5. Effectively manage interpersonal, organizational, and technology-mediated conflicts.

Learning Objective Mastered

#1- Explore concepts of collaboration in human interaction.

Artifact: Assignment #1

Rationale

This assignment explores a real-time example of collaboration between a group of stakeholders who sit on a fundraising board which supports Mosaic in Arizona’s efforts to raise money, increase community engagement and mission awareness. Included in this exploration is a reflection on personal bias, recommendations for developing stronger relationships between the stakeholders and the application of the Wilder Inventory.

I believe the paper does show mastery of the learning objective. In the paper I argue, the creation of collaborative environments hinges on providing space for every member of the collaborative group to share their ideas in a safe space so they may develop a shared understanding of the purpose for the collaboration, identify self-concept and bias and work together to create a strong team dynamic.

The paper concludes: Collaboration is the nuanced practice of bringing together people or organizations in pursuit of a mutual goal and shared vision for change. When motivated and engaged individuals are invited to the table to explore challenges facing their communities, they successfully breakdown otherness and create innovative solutions to problems both big and small. Collaboration is a living thing and needs to be able to change and adjust as the project needs grow.  The exploration and evaluation of effectiveness during collaborative process will drive success. Imagine if you never learned to reflect on your accomplishments and shift your focus when it was most necessary in life? Would you be where you are now? The same rules apply for collaboration. Without critical thinking and honest feedback stagnation can take hold leaving the members of the collaboration frustrated and goals unreached.

Human interaction can often be temperamental and understanding your own intrapersonal communication and how you interact in a team dynamic helps identify what kind of collaborative partner you are in shared work.  And having a broader understanding of human interaction in relation to collaboration can help also identify how to best support a team while creating an environment where meaningful work can be accomplished in a measurable and effective way.

The paper included recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of the collaborative team—I could have improved the paper by including some additional solutions to create cohesiveness between the team members. We later learned concepts like the compassionate conversation framework and techniques for better negotiations which would have enhanced my strategies by creating more meaningful dialogue between the stakeholders.

Change

The biggest change in my thoughts on human interaction within a collaborative environment has to be the idea that collaboration and partnership can actually be measured not only for quality but success. I had never realized that was a correct way to collaborate—I assumed in order to collaborate you just had to be open to others. But it turns out that collaboration is a “nuanced practice” and there is a basic structure for success. Mattessich, Murray-Close & Monsey assert that the foundation of successful collaboration happens when there is also “a jointly developed structure and shared responsibility; mutual authority and accountability for success; and share of resources and rewards.” (Collaboration: What Makes it Work, pg. 4)


Learning Objective Mastered

#2- Articulate contemporary understandings of power and privilege differentials in organizations and society.

Artifact: Week 3 Dialogue discussion post & Week 4 Dialogue discussion post & Week 10 Dialogue discussion post

Rationale

Each of these three discussion posts explore my own relationship with power, privilege and prejudice while discussing ideas from Atlee, Nye, Lesser and McLeod. Included in these explorations are thoughts on how power, privilege and prejudice have impacted my experiences in the world and what role I play in encouraging those dynamics in society.

I believe the three artifacts combined show mastery. In the final Week 10 Dialogue post I reflected:

I really appreciated our conversations around race, privilege, power, bias and assumptions. The readings and conversation couldn’t have come at a more memorable time. With the RNC and DNC conventions taking place, there was this almost frenetic example of those ideas right in front of us.

I continue to be especially moved by Michelle Obama’s speech from the DNC and have found myself going back to it and ruminating on her message. If we hadn’t been looking these issues as they relate to collaboration, the FLOTUS’ speech probably wouldn’t have been as impactful to me. Her call to do for others and the reality of her experience as a black woman, with daughters who have lived in the White House and the implications of that experience, cut to the core of the blindness I had about her personal journey and the role race, gender, bias and power played in her life.

I wrote in our Week 3 dialogue thread:

I can invite those perceived as others to join me at the table. My position and power gives me the opportunity to make sure voices are heard.  Collaboration and community is better when we are all represented and we can explore our experiences with one another openly. No one person has the right answer. This is the “Power of  WITH – The power of being, doing, and having together in ways that achieve what WE want…” (Atlee, pg 3).

Last night in her speech at the DNC, First Lady Michelle Obama said, “we don’t chase fame and fortune for ourselves, we fight to give everyone a chance to succeed — and we give back, even when we’re struggling ourselves, because we know that there is always someone worse off, and there but for the grace of God go I” (NPR, pg. 1).

I went into our Week 4 dialogue concerned about why and how these idea of bias happen and learned:

We look to enforce stereotypes and bias because it is part of our processing as humans which means we will automatically look for “other-ness” to help us figure out if someone is what we consider “good” or “bad” (McLeod).

When we operate from our bias, assumptions and prejudices we aren’t really able to communicate with one another because we can’t move past our own internal processing. If we can’t move outside of ourselves then we won’t be able to collaborate with others.

Ultimately, I realize while my bias, assumptions and prejudices enforce gender, race, privilege and power dynamics. I’m not chained to those ideas and I can use collaboration to breakdown those stereotypes and create a space where there is a shared safe space to explore these concerns and work with others to create change.

Change

This week I had breakfast with someone who works for the Girl Scouts, responsible for helping the neighborhood volunteers and troop leaders build a sense of community. I was taken aback by our conversation which was steeped in race dynamics —not because I was surprised but because it reflected our conversations and learning in class. She commented to me that people often see the program as a “get into the middle class” which simultaneously mortified me and made me wonder if that was something people actually believed about the organization. I commented that I wasn’t sure that sentiment validated the experience of the girls being served in that area and I believed it was more important to focus on ways of building community WITH as Atlee suggests not for. I don’t believe I would have understood the impact of those words had I not taken this class.


Learning Objective Mastered

#3- Identify and engage stakeholders to achieve definable goals.

Artifact: Assignment #2

Rationale 

In this paper Anna, Hilary and I researched a current issue that would benefit from a collaborative dialogue to solve a conflict. We developed a conflict resolution plan using research from our coursework. Our plan had six recommendations which that called for a group of three stakeholder groups come together to engage in meaningful dialogue, create a shared agenda, find a meaningful solution to their conflict and use their work as a potential blueprint for like conflicts.

I believe this paper shows mastery of the learning objective because it developed a real-world strategy for conflict resolution that can be used to solve issues between stakeholders involved in a variety of conflicts. In the paper we assert our strategy would be successful because it allows for all members of the stakeholder alliance to come together to in a safe space to have a brave conversation which the aim of honoring and respecting the needs and self-concept of all parties.

We conclude:

In following the proposed actions, the stakeholder-participants move through a process that emphasizes Atlee’s power with (Atlee, 2016), creating and acting within an inclusive space that supports “working together on a shared goal” where “people come to better understand each other, appreciate their similarities as well as their differences, and begin to break down the barriers that led to the conflict and exacerbated it before” (Burgess, 2012). Working with the idea of “we” enables powerful, creative solutions to emerge from the collaborative efforts. Benefits of working with “we,” include: co-intelligence, strengthening of social capital, collective empowerment, community building across different social worlds, compassion, resonance and synergy within the group, an accumulation of mutual wisdom, and, finally, increased “interaction, conversation [leading to] coevolution” as the alliance metaphorically dances their “way into new understandings, relationships, possibilities, and other potencies” (Atlee, 2016).

Change: One of my major learnings from this course is the idea that conflicts and assumptions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They can actually serve a purpose to create important conversations. I’ve recently transitioned into a new a new job role, at a new organization, and have found myself disagreeing with some of the decisions the team has made about who they approach to donate to our annual giving fund. I’ve been relatively successful in sitting in the uncomfortable silence or having hard conversations without getting annoyed or finding the conversation frustrating. In fact, I find that I’m much more interested in hearing dissenting opinions and learning more about the opinions of my peers. I’ve also been more willing to play the devil’s advocate, opting to bring forth facts and opinions that might not be my own to assure that our collaborative environment is representative of all sides of an issue. One of the most powerful ideas I’ve taken away from this course is the idea of echo chambers and how people often choose to support the most popular idea. I have noticed it is quite common in team discussions if you pay attention to what people say and how they use their body language to communicate with the group.


Learning Objective Mastered

#4- Create conditions for stakeholders to synthesize diverse perspectives in group settings.

Artifact: Assignment #2

Rationale

 In this paper Anna, Hilary and I created a conflict resolution plan that was designed to help three very different stakeholder groups explore their differences and personal experiences within a safe container in order to create a shared agenda to solve a problem in which they all played a role.

I believe this paper shows mastery of the learning objective because the conflict we explored was between a group of scientists, a Native American Indian tribe and a government body. Each of those stakeholder groups had a very specific interest in the outcome of the conflict that was a direct result of their unique perspectives not only as individuals but as a member of their larger groups. The six recommendations outlined in the paper were specifically designed to create space for the stakeholders to explore their differences while also accepting that they had a shared reason for being present in the collaborative group. Part of what I learned in researching this paper is that your self-concept, the social world in which you operate and your personal motivations can make it incredibly difficult for you to understand and honor difference in others. When we ignore or devalue the perspectives of others we often miss out on great conversation and opportunities to break down stereotypes or learn something new about one another and the larger human experience.

In our paper we argue that recognizing diverse perspectives can happen through dialogue:

The participants in the alliance then discuss their disparate cultures, with the goal of developing a common agenda. The participants must make themselves vulnerable in order to acknowledge differences, within the shared safe space, which opens the door to authentic conversation. This dialogue allows cultural differences to be honored, with the recognition that differences “…are not necessarily negative, and that these differences can create huge potential benefits…” (Buell, 2007). One such benefit is the creation of a shared agenda around a shared set of values, which gives the members a feeling of ownership “of both the way the group works and the results” (Mattessich, Murray-Close, Monsey, & Wilder Research Center, p. 18).

Change

The group project was incredibly difficult for me because I had to accept not only the differing perspectives of my peers but had to learn that sometimes those differing perspectives can lead people to choose not to participate in larger collaborative project. Sometimes people make the choice not to participate because they feel like their perspectives aren’t being heard or honored and sometimes people make the choice not to participate because they can’t hear or honor the perspectives of others. In some ways this group assignment taught me that not all collaborations work. In order to ensure a collaborative process is successful all of the partners must be engaged and willing to do their fair share of the work.


Learning Objective Mastered

#5- Effectively manage interpersonal, organizational, and technology-mediated conflicts.

Artifact: Week 8 Dialogue Discussion Post & Week 8 Collaboration Discussion Post

These discussion posts explore the differences between technology mediated collaboration and face to face collaboration while helping me recognize the positives and negatives of both mediums and how my preference for face to face (F2F) communication might impact my ability to effectively communicate using technology. I also explore how technology mediated collaboration can create change in our communities and engage a larger group of stakeholders across many different demographics and with many different perspectives.

The discussion posts from Week 8 show mastery of the learning objective. Learning to understand when it is best to use F2F communication versus technology mediated communication plays a huge role in both interpersonal and organizational conflict and the management of those issues.

In my Week 8 Collaboration post I reflect:

I prefer to collaborate F2F because I rely on non-verbal communication and intuition to guide a lot of my conversations with others. I recently had a meeting with my new team and we were all sitting around the table listening to our team lead who had joined us by phone. She had a really big meeting with a potential donor and was giving us a recap and assigning next actions so for those of us that would play a role in moving the relationship forward. I had a really hard time reading her and in some parts of the conversation I found myself thinking “is she unhappy with the results of her meeting with XXX or excited about them?” 

If she had been in the room, I would have been able to read her energy and watch her non-verbals which I couldn’t do because she was on the phone. I realize now, technology mediated communication is such a large part of how we communicate both personally and professionally. It has become a part of our interpersonal and organizational collaboration process. In order to manage conflicts that arise, we must understand how people prefer to be communicated with and how our way of communicating might impact the overall communication process and what conflicts that might result from that choice.

Change

I’m working on being more open to technology mediated communication and collaboration so as to avoid interpersonal and organization conflict. The new team I’m on at work relies very heavily on email driven communication and this has been a huge adjustment for me. There have been days that the only time I hear from my teammates or my supervisor is via email, text or a quick phone call. I’ve had to learn that these means of communicating are an important piece of how the team functions together and that my preference for F2F communication matters very little in this dynamic. I’ve worked hard to cultivate a process that makes the endless digital communication seem less taxing and invasive by choosing to only respond to technology mediated communication three set times a day. This has helped me not get sucked into the trap of immediacy that technology mediated communication can sometimes create. By creating boundaries with technology mediated communication I’ve also been able to develop an understanding of what needs to be talked about face-to-face and what is appropriate to send in an email or text. It has made my face-to-face conversations more focused and they tend to carry more depth which makes the time incredibly powerful to me.


Atlee, T. A compact vision of collective intelligence. Retrieved from:
http://www.co-intelligence.org/I-compactCIvision.html

Buell, B. (2007, January 15). Negotiation Strategy: Seven common pitfalls to avoid. Stanford Business. Retrieved from:
http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/negotiation-strategy-seven-common-pitfalls-avoid

Burgess, H. (2012). Peacebuilding and reconciliation strategies. Retrieved from: http://www.beyondintractability.org/userguide/limitviolence-practitioners/peacebuilding-reconciliation-strategies

Mattessich, P. W., Murray-Close, R.A. & Monsey, B.R.(2001). Collaboration: What makes it work? Fieldstone Alliance: MN. pp. 35-50.

McLeod, S. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. SimplePsychology. Retrieved from: http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

NPR. (2016) Michelle Obama’s Speech At 2016 Democratic National Convention. Retrieved from:
http://www.npr.org/2016/07/26/487431756/michelle-obamas-prepared-remarks-for-democratic-national-convention

 

 

 

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