Creating Villages


We receive messages and anecdotes of partnership and collaboration throughout our lives.  “It takes a village”, “two heads are better than one”, “teamwork makes the dream work” and “there is no ‘I’ in team”.  Conversely, we receive contradictory axioms. When I first enrolled in college, there was a speech given to the freshman class, stating “look to your left, look to your right, one or more of these people will not be here at the end of this chapter”. Oftentimes we have experiences which promote a crabs in the barrel perspective. The challenge for community organizations is to reconcile the contradictions, strategically finding innovative ways to create a synthesis with partners who will help to engage in mutual mission facilitation.

How can we work with children, families, schools and other systems without some sense of true partnership? How can we see other organizations and key stakeholders as complementary versus competition? By thinking, planning, and working together, the individuals and groups that make a community can accomplish goals that neither could achieve alone. Not unlike finding the perfect mate or a life- long friend, the process is made easier when transparency, similar goals and commitment are prioritized. We are the best partners to others, when we are the best versions of ourselves as individuals. As organizations, we create the most meaningful collaborative efforts when the best assets are brought to the table.

Creating a diverse group of stakeholders shape the encompassing efforts of collective partnerships. These partnerships give communities a unique platform for strategizing and implementing the deliverables of the organization. The standard recommendation for established collaborations are as follows:

  • Be Transparent. Straight talk makes for clear understanding. Community work often involves unavoidable conflicts, whether it be organizations competing for the same funding or targeting the same program participants. Developing a mechanism which addresses these conflicts in a transparent fashion ultimately strengthens the collaborative.
  • Ensure a broad-based, inclusive partnership Make sure your partners reflect diverse perspectives, experiences, cultures, and levels of authority.
  • Don’t wait for all partners to get on board before moving forward with your plans. Like any relationship, most partnerships expand gradually over time.
  • Secure a commitment to collaboration. Make sure organizations designate representatives’ names and responsibilities in writing; this makes it more likely the same people will be at the table every time the group meets. Having a Memorandum of Understanding which outlines the specifics of the commitment is a great strategic tool.

As we mature and grow as an organization, Street Smart Youth Project endeavors to be the change we want to see in the world of community work. At times, this effort presents unique challenges which threaten our ability to build capacity, but we are committed to the integrity of the process and are hopeful that we will continue to grow partnerships which will create the most impactful villages.

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