By Jocelyne Daw
As we wrap up last year and start planning for the year ahead we at JS Daw & Associates have been reflecting on community trends, opportunities, and new ideas. Our discussion has been wide-ranging, but we all agree working in community – whether you’re a nonprofit, business or government organization - has never been more complex and the needs have never been greater. Doing good is no longer good enough.It is going to take the ideas and creativity of all of us -- not just some of us -- to meet the growing complexity of the community issues that face everyone. Over the past year we have witnessed a rise in co-creativity and collaboration. We are seeing organizations from business, civil society and even government agencies seek new models and approaches that are more innovative and collaborative. They understand that working together is more powerful and effective than working alone!What are the new models that are moving us towards a more collaborative framing and away from a competitive one? Here are the three we embrace in our work and that we believe are leading the way forward:1) Collective Impact Partnering: A shift from market competition to collaborationTraditional approaches focus on organizations becoming the biggest, strongest, or furthest reaching. But leading organizations acknowledge that even their best individual efforts cannot stack up against today’s complex and interconnected problems. Self-interest is being put aside in favour of collaboration that advances organizational goals, overall community good and shared objectives where value is created for all the partners. Increasingly, community initiatives led by business, government, or civil society, are being launched with partnership and collaboration at the centre.While partnership and collaboration is not a new concept, increasingly organizations understand that effective partnering is a process that can be complex and challenging. Success is not guaranteed without the necessary skill set in place, clear knowledge and understanding of partnering practices and a deep respect for the art and science the partnership. With these critical elements in place, partnerships are more likely to achieve real impact. Without them, partnerships will likely under-perform or even fail altogether.2) Boundary Spanning: The top skill for organizations AND employeesBoundary spanning is a new term for many people. What does it mean? It is the efforts by an organization or employee to establish connections both within and outside their organization. It is a means of establishing bridges between different levels of employees and with other organizations and sectors. It builds a personal information network from many different sources. Boundary spanning is vital to the effectiveness of cross-functional teams and change management initiatives and requires strong collaboration skills.Like partnering, boundary spanning requires the ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships. It also requires the skill to tackle uncertainty and ambiguity in order to meet objectives, deadlines and goals. Boundary spanning has gone from “nice to have” to “critical.” It was identified by a recent IBM CEO Survey as the top skill for organizations and employees from all sectors to have to effectively and successfully operate in today’s workplace.3) Community-centered design: Co-creating innovative community solutions Social challenges require systemic solutions that are grounded in the community and stakeholder needs and motivations. Community-centered design thinking incorporates constituent or stakeholder insights, and in-depth rapid brainstorming. It aims at getting beyond the assumptions that block effective solutions. Community-centered design is a process that helps people hear the needs of the communities they’re designing for, co-create innovative approaches to meet these needs, and deliver solutions that work in specific cultural and economic contexts.Few if any organizations systematically integrate this approach into their work, which is why often they flounder. We firmly believe in and embrace community-centered design thinking, a new approach to creating sustainable solutions.Centered in optimism and embracing constraints and complexity, the process starts by working with key community stakeholders, asking the right questions, and then working through an approach to co-design ideas and possible solutions. Design thinking crosses the traditional boundaries between public, for-profit, and nonprofit sectors. By working closely with the citizens and stakeholders, design thinking allows high-impact solutions to bubble up from below rather than being imposed from the top. This past summer, the team at JS Daw & Associates participated in a five week course on human-centered design, which was offered by Acumen and IDEO.org. During this course, we were exposed to a variety of useful examples, tools and techniques for community-centered design that we use regularly in our work. Click here for a great toolkit that we recommend you take a look at.New models embed engagement and collaborationAt their best, these new models of co-creativity and collaboration provide real-world perspective as ideas and strategies are developed. Using these processes, ideas that emerge are pre-validated and more likely to inspire interest, adoption and scale. As we begin 2014, an era of increasing complexity and expectations, organizations that win will meet the moment by embedding engagement and collaboration into their strategy, inspiring co-creativity in every process and unleashing shared value that works for all.Future blog: Five principles for co-creativity and collaboration.