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A few years ago, when I was jumpstarting my practice again, I attended a local community organization's meeting made up of different providers for networking and to get to know the burning issues of the day. One lady questioned my presence and intimated that I might be in a 'wrong meeting' because am in the consulting business. Presumably, she thought that their group should not be a 'target' of my marketing.
Like in many of professions, as a professional and a person, we come with many hats. Because I was seen as the 'consultant' ready to take their monies and hard-earned budget, I got an inquisition. But if you come with an open mind, a consultant can be a guide, an expert, another connector, and could be an ardent supporter just like any other individual. I can also write a cheque if I want to!
How come organizations suffer from myopic perspectives and ill-thought actions? Because they insulate themselves from outside voices and perspectives that can actually enrich their work and challenge their assumptions. Within the confines of the comfortable existence, a few of them dare to venture to reach out or be accessed by people marginal to their operational logics. Innovation is relaxing controls and embracing the creative diversities from resources and talent around you.
Don't be too quick to say no to people from unlikely origins, with backgrounds different from yours just because of the prejudices and biases against/for these people. There is always a treasure hidden behind a job title or a strange name or a weird hairdo. If you dismiss these people arbitrarily, you're literally leaving money on the table. For a non-profit, this attitude is suicidal.
Be open to possibilities and be surprised with your findings.
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I have been receiving requests for partnership and as always, I ask: "Where's the beef?"
Collaboration for on-purpose organizations takes more than you and the other party. Because you're in the business of purpose, your metrics are totally different. You can enlarge the pie for the sector if it becomes a system-generating activity than just for mere propagation of your programs, projects, or products. In a systems- approach to collaboration, 1+5 is not 6 but 60. To leverage the vast benefits of collaboration with the eye to a larger social good is really about:
1) Showing others (your peers, your stakeholders, your audience/customers, and policy-makers) the way towards better practices, mindsets, and tools for success;
2) Benefiting the ecosystem where you operate, the collaboration has public value and could be supported at scale;
3) Creating innovation at a smaller scale than can be replicated with enough infrastructure and technology and leveraged outcomes;
4) Doing the 'impossible' in the sector by having the 'no-regrets policy.'
Do you see collaboration as a means to pursue your strategic ends as an organization? Or there is more to it than what gets approved in the annual cycle of budgets and operational plans? If yes, to collaboration, when the benefits outweigh the risks and challenges, why not get the biggest sectoral obstacle and induce solutions through a collaborative arrangement where all the actors can be involved.
The question then on 'where's the beef?' becomes moot and academic.
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Lately in a coaching conversation, I learned that applying a COVID19 lens as an intentional approach to planning, decision-making, and resources allocation is not only safe but strategic.
Given that majority of the world is still battling the third wave, dangerous variants have weakened and collapsed many health care systems in the developing countries, and developed countries have yet to pick up the pieces of their lives and economies- COVID19 will not go away just as it came.
The COVID19 lens should be used beyond the pandemic and the virus transmission. It's about reconstruction, restoration, and healing of societies and economies. It's also about getting back to the root causes that alienate us from our environment, community, and self-sustainability. I heard that those people who recover from COVID19 had after-effects felt for months and years.
These are facts we are grappling today:
How can the whole society recover from mental health issues, depression, and isolation? How can we recover from deaths of family, friends, neighbors, officemates due to COVID19?
How can we recover from suicides of people close to us who died because of COVID19 isolation?
How can we recover our businesses from taking a nose dive due to lockdowns and travel/mobility restrictions?
How can we recover from deaths that are not COVID19 because the health care systems refuse to treat emergency surgeries?
These are not irrecoverable or irreparable but they do leave lasting impacts that will take years to completely undo.
On a positive note, this virus will never be back again. On a more realistic note, we will have to face more diseases, deadlier than this one unless we get better at monitoring, testing, rules and policy enforcements, and cooperation.
How are you operating your organization through the COVID19 lens and beyond? Are you ready for the slow but sure emergence in the horizon?
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The politics on vaccines is another issue that can potentially escalate into another time-bomb.
We have several vaccines that have promising results for the prevention of the COVID-19 virus. We know that these can take a few months before initial groups of people are monitored and the side effects of the drug are taken into consideration.
We'll have the vaccines as our (Canadian) government committed to this a long time ago. Other countries have to wait until it becomes affordable and that preliminary results come out. No one wants to be the guinea pig, I suppose.
Vaccines are one thing but the equitable distribution, affordability, accessibility and appropriateness of these vaccines to differentiated needs of different populations come into question. Another issue is about protecting consumers who have elected to use these vaccines under development, which calls for regulation and complete transparency for public welfare.
We live in ambiguous times. We cannot trust our health systems and authorities that are overwhelmed and overworked to decide for our health, well-being, and safety. Like all systems, when it's saturated, it either collapses on the sheer weight of its load or dissipates into mediocrity or irrelevance.
We also cannot turn a blind eye on the suffering and hardships that are experienced by our neighbors in the developing South. That's why we call on health equity across the board. Those that have multiple vulnerabilities and needs must be given equitable priority and attention and consulted adequately.
Be your own health advocate and become a health advocate for others around you. The world is hyperconnected to risk being the weakest link.
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Half of the battle is won by just showing up.
Showing up for your employees and staff when they need an ally and a champion for workplace effectiveness.
Showing up for community causes that are no longer optional or good-to-have but are essential for collective rejuvenation.
Showing up for suppliers who are hurting in this pandemic and needed measures to ease their financial and logistical difficulties.
Showing up for your customers to say that you care and offer help when it's not being expected.
Showing up for your stakeholders and generate collective voices so that those that are not on the table can be represented.
Showing up despite the fear and uncertainty of the new environment where we live in.
Showing up and owning the co-responsibility of charting the new future in your sector.
When you show up, the world opens up for you.
Own the space and hold the space for others too!
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Remember this famous line from the movie "Jerry Maguire" where the character of Cuba Gooding said, "show me the money!"
In collaboration and partnership, the true test where there is partnership and collaboration is the mandate/project.
Collaboration for collaboration's sake is nonsense.
There is no collaboration or promise of collaboration where there is no single uniting focus of where the collaboration will be.
Promises are never guaranteed, unless we are talking of real, tangible benefits and rewards and the "work" that needed to get done by all the collaborators.
It is not just 'tit for tat'- it is more than that. It is about collaborating on a specific mandate that is too good to leave on the table and yet to powerful to be done by one organization or entity alone.
Show me the money (or in some instances -the mandate) and I will show you how we can partner together.