Want to change the world? Don't 'collaborate' - align
There is a wind of change whipping up across the world and it's turning into one helluva gust, motivating and activating people. However, it's what comes next that is critical. People feel part of something big, something positive, so let's join forces - right?
No - let's align our forces. A big and a very human mistake that is made with social change work is people go from inspiration, to action and then collaboration. At the point of collaboration, the action stalls, starts to fumble, infuriates and diminishes. It is not collaboration per se that is the problem, it is the dampening down of people's action in order to collaborate that is problematic.
To achieve change we need alignment of an incredible diversity of action. People doing what they do best towards a similar goal. Don't be tempted to see someone doing something similar to you and think 'oh maybe we should work together'. Definitely support each others work, communicate, motivate and share but keep honest to your action, your contribution to change. Diminishing it to 'work together' isn't helpful. Empower, inspire and stay dynamic in your effective action.
If you've worked in the charitable/non-profit sectors you'll know what I mean. Too many times organisations have been encouraged to collaborate or, worse, dictated to 'work together' in order to receive funds. Countless hours, stress and distractions suddenly join your workload and for what overall benefit? The resources taken to 'collaborate' rarely give a profitable social return, and even more rarely create change. In some cases, organisations even get eaten up in the name of collaboration, by bigger counterparts dominating the resources.
I've been there many times. I've also been in opposite situations where I've felt isolated in my work, thinking 'why am I the only one to think this way', then finding someone else who thinks the same - my immediate thought is 'Wow, this is cool! Lets work together'. Be super mindful of this reaction - instead of trying to find a collaboration, step up and say 'Hey cool - we're aligned! What is your experience, what can we learn from each other? Hey if there's something I can help promote or share for you and you for me - let's do it!'
Only, after some time, if it naturally happens, look at working together - don't make it happen. Keep focused on what you are doing and what is best for addressing the need - that way you'll only invest time and energy into what is most effective for change.
Also, look for the people you disagree with but say they have the same end goal. Diversity in action means that it is likely that there will be many ways to address the need, a cacophany of people and organisations, big, small and everything in between. Be challenged by people, learn from the differences, support by challenging each other - what better way to hone your action and approach by someone else disagreeing with it!
Everyone has a contribution to make to address need and to enable change to happen. A contribution that is precious beyond description. Each person, each organisation's contribution, enables the big impact. Never is it just one organisation or one individual.
The beauty of big movements, such as Extinction Rebellion or campaigns such as the WWF UK #fightforyourworld, is they identify the great alignments in our society - the large numbers of people who are aligned. Draw on that extraordinary energy and use it to drive what you are best at, your contribution to huge change. Support other's work, encourage action from all corners, allow unrestrained energy and ideas. Embrace the diversity for the end goal and shy away from collaborations that diminish your action. Change isn't about controlled or rule based relationships, it's about effective contributions to the same end goal - alignment. Challenge anyone who says differently!
Like a thriving forest - it isn't just a formally ordered group of trees doing the same thing together, it's an abundance of diverse plant and wildlife, each doing their thing brilliantly alongside each other. It isn't necessarily pretty or formally organised but it works beautifully.
Do your thing really well, make your effective contribution for huge change. The world needs it urgently.