Success Together

24 02 2011

Many readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of Hildy Gottlieb’s work  (Creating The Future) and I apply a number of her concepts and principles in my practice (thanks Hildy, you spread the love so generously). One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is a topic Hildy has ranted about many times, and a fundamental question Hildy is always asking: what will it take for the community benefit sector to achieve genuine success (or, the flip side, what’s stopping that from happening?):

Success in the Community Benefit arena doesn’t come from being the smartest and the fastest and the best. Yes, you may become the best funded organization. But success in the Community Benefit world is about – well – Community Benefit! And none of us can do that on our own. It is clear that this sector’s potential can only be reached if we link arms together to create the healthy, vibrant communities we all want. To accomplish that, many of the systems we rely upon in this sector will need to shift, from competitive systems that keep us apart to systems that encourage and nurture interconnectedness and interdependence. [Hildy Gottlieb]

Amen to that.

So, I’ve been thinking about that shift and how to support it. I’m wondering about the figurative linking of arms and how that might tangibly or literally be accomplished in a typical community. There are no shortage of inspiring examples on a global scale (just in these past weeks the Middle East is full of them). Examples can also be found within the ranks of the collective impact movement (see: So what about here, within Hamilton neighbourhoods? How do small community efforts grow to become community benefit successes? That’s been occupying my mind of late, and steering me to seek out viable answers. It seems vital that our local community benefit organizations be encouraged and supported in efforts to join together…to find strength in numbers and influence in shared vision. I’m not talking about merely “collaborating” here, where agencies remain independent and separate while joining together (or appearing to do so) for select purposes. That kind of collaboration has been a diversion for many organizations (particularly small ones with very limited resources) and ineffective for many others. As a requirement of many funders, collaboration has become a challenge for organizations who might be far better served by genuine efforts at unified, targeted advocacy and action. Time-consuming and ineffectual partnerships have kept more than one organization from realizing true innovation. Carefully assessing when, how and with whom to partner is a missing step in many collaborations…it’s often simply a requisite step in the grant application process. To shift from “expected” collaboration to instead focus on shared community outcomes (or collective impact) will take some time and some genuine effort. But I can hear Hildy yelling, “yes, but think of the possibilities if it happens!” and that very thing is what has me giving this considerable attention.

Be the change, the Gandhi-inspired mantra, requires that we model our efforts according to the outcomes we seek. When it comes to local community benefit and the sector upon which so much rests, that means some considerable adjustments will be needed. Stay tuned.



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