I'm thinking about...
#collaboration # buildbackbetter #workingbettertogether
New Zealand recently had an inspiring week of envisioning where VisionWeek invited experts and the community to contribute their thinking and thoughts for the future of Aotearoa, New Zealand. At the final session leaders considered “What Next NZ” and the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s address, included this challenge:
Now is the precise time to be asking ourselves what’s next. We are navigating new waters and we all have a role to play in what comes next. Perhaps our approach should change. We need to Build Back Better. This moment is different. We aren’t at a fork in the road, we’re at spaghetti junction. Multiple challenges are all colliding at one time. We’ve been forced to reset. We’ve been given the opportunity to reassess where we are at, where we are going and rebuild better. In many ways we chose our path through our response to COVID. We chose to protect our people, in order to protect our economy. We chose to live up to who we are and what we are known for to safeguard our future. We have chosen our own path.
We live in unparalleled times. The evidence of COVID-19’s impact on our “patch” of the world and in particular our regions is still emerging. As communities transition from the pressures and busyness of essential workers’ response through lockdown, it is evident that there is much work to be done to #buildbackbetter.
We all have a responsibility to rise as kaitiaki [stewards, guardians, trustees] of our homeland. This unprecedented time in history presents an opportunity to pool limited resources and re-think the systems we live, work and play in. In the end, just like most things, it’s likely to be less about money and resources and more about capabilities and relationships – knowing what's needed, understanding inter-relationships and inter-connectedness of them, being intentional about developing capabilities and relationships that will serve all our people well across the generations to come.
The sentiment articulated by Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, in a recent report, are equally valuable for Christchurch and all our regions:
In the same way that it was recognised that the health response to COVID-19 would have to involve the team of five million, we as a city and a region need to work together as a team to both recover and reposition ourselves and our region for the future.
Possibly the best way to start is to draw on the teachings and values taught to us by the indigenous ancestors of Aoteaora. This whakatauki guides us towards #workingbettertogether and steers us to collaboration as a strength-based approach and the norm for a way of “doing and being”. It acknowledges that everybody has something to offer, a piece of the puzzle, and by working together we can all flourish.
Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi
With your basket and my basket the people will thrive
As we have listened to and reflected on the many leaders reimagining new futures for Aoteaora we are convinced that our success as a nation across many arenas is reliant on successful strategic collaborations and partnerships. We have been inspired and decided to “walk the talk” that we, individually, as strategic advisors and practitioners in our respective fields of expertise of collaboration, have been promoting for some years now! Therefore, we have come together to offer some of our collaboration insights for regions and local communities in New Zealand. How we can build the collaboration muscle and accelerate the leadership capability in collaboration – with a particular focus on ‘how to’ collaborate effectively.
We believe that this point in our lives as a nation offers a unique opportunity to come together as a united people to design and deliver collaborative solutions to the most complex issues in “our patch”. Collaboration is not only the new competitive advantage; it’s an existential advantage for small businesses, regions and community groups. It provides an opportunity to bring a localised response that meets the needs of the region.
We believe, and the research shows that, the future calls for collaboration as a fundamental leadership capability. This is a move from leaders as “directors” to “conveners”. We need leaders who enable spaces where ideas can be shared, open dialogue and discourse is safe, and the voices of all those “with skin in the game” can be heard.
Here we have built the case for “why” collaboration is critical for regional impact (and indeed in other arenas too). Over the next three weeks we will release consecutive articles that will continue to develop these ideas and build on the “how” and “what” of collaboration. Our focus will be on collaboration successes in a New Zealand regional context, how it has made a difference for business, regions and communities and above all, how you as a leader in Aotearoa can accelerate your time to build this fundamental capability.
Before we leave you today – we acknowledge that collaboration can mean different things to different people, so we offer some definitions for your consideration.
Academics Roberts and Bradley said,
“Collaboration is a temporary social arrangement in which two or more social actors work together toward a singular common end requiring the transmutation of materials, ideas, and/or social relations to achieve that end.”
And, a US programme director is purported to have said,
“Collaboration is like cottage cheese. It occasionally smells bad and separates easily.”
When considering the variety of definitions (and there are many!), our observation is that in summary: collaboration is commonly acknowledged as a process that brings together multiple partners and includes more than “me” and embraces “we”. It is commonly based on a “temporary” rather than “permanent” arrangement. Collaboration is often confused with “co-operation” or “co-ordination”, but “real” collaboration in a business context goes deeper than this and is a stand-alone skill set. Leaders who have demonstrated the ability to set up successful collaborations have brought people together with vision and purpose, working effectively across silos, sectors, cultures and disciplines – empowering all parties to bring their best.
Collaboration takes time and effort, so it’s best suited to the systemic opportunities facing us. Along the way, “smaller collaborations” will happen and add value – but real change to #buildbackbetter is contingent on us #workingbettertogether on the systemic opportunities.
Until next week, kei runga noa atu. He waka eke noa,
If you are on a strategic collaboration and partnership journey - do get in touch, let’s talk - I’d welcome the opportunity to serve you in your context.
No silver bullets, just proven and tested frameworks and approaches
Nazanin Jenkin is a Persian Kiwi - a Persian by descent and a diaspora by circumstance. She lives in New Zealand; along with her husband of thirty years and two surviving, adult children.