My great-grandmother used to say, “Two heads are better than one”; and when joking she would add, “Especially if one would is a cabbage head.” Of course, being young I didn’t really appreciate the importance of her words (one of many).
Today, as the founder of an organization whose mission is to assist in improving the lives of young people I have learned the importance of Helen Johnson’s analogy. It is because of this that part of Tomaro’s C.H.A.N.G.E. foundation rests on the notion that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.
Multisector collaborations are important to our communities. Building strong, long lasting relationships with individuals and organizations that share the same interests as one another, but offer services that one or the other may be lacking. As one of our partners, Mrs. Rashida Jabbar often says, “Everyone stay in your own lane.” This type of collaboration can only do one thing, and that is ensure that those involved can and will get things done. Another good point to make is that while we all focus on making a difference in the lives of youth, we are enhancing the opportunities of growth within our partner’s businesses/organizations.
Don’t get me wrong, collaborations can be difficult. There are responsibilities that each individual or business/organization must take into consideration, and be prepared to take on. Folks must let go of ‘turf issues’ and be willing to take positive criticism as well as give it. All involved must realize that collaboration is a greater enterprise than simply networking, coordinating, and cooperating; and the potential to make huge strides in the lives of at risk youth are enormous! Groups of people and businesses/organizations working together proves that we as a people can overcome all the obstacles presented to us as individual entities; working together allows us to break down the many barriers that has held many back, keeping them up from making an evident difference.
Although there are many, I am only listing a few of the more typical issues that exist in current collaborative situations, many of which cause folks to back out forgetting the ultimate goal:
1) People believe that individual effort is more beneficial than cooperation – because of the individualistic culture in which we live, many people believe that they can do better if they fight the battles of society on their own; as well, many are more concerned about obtaining available ‘funds’ themselves, or receiving all of the recognition for accomplishments within the communities. Sometimes folks tend to forget why we do what we do…this only aids in the failure to make change.
2) Lack of trust – people have a very difficult time trusting one another. Earning trust in any situation takes time; however, it can be done. Because there is not a whole lot of time to waste many tend to go into relationships before forming some kind of trust in one another. This is not a good idea; it is best to take your time and gain the trust then it is to realize after time has been spent that one is not trustworthy. We should only move forward in a collaboration after feeling comfortable with one another, and realizing the risks involved.
3) Communication skills are often an issue – it is extremely important for collaborating businesses/organizations to put someone in place that is able to not only talk, but who also has great listening and negotiating skills. Communicating in groups is definitely more challenging than doing so with one or two others; during collaborating efforts one must become skillful and disciplined in communicating, otherwise all collaborating efforts will fail.
4) Discrimination of any means that any collaborating efforts will fail. There is absolutely no room for discrimination when trying to come together for change.
Clarifying goals for each organization to accomplish, with one mission in mind is key. Tomaro’s C.H.A.N.G.E believes that without collaborating efforts we will not touch the lives of youth in a ‘mighty’ way. We recognize the importance of working with others in order to recreate what society tells us is the ‘norm’ for many of our youth. Now we need others to recognize the importance too.
In beginning to expand our collaborating efforts we held our 1st Annual United We Stand Mixer on May 3, 2014. The idea behind this event was to gather a large number of professionals, and growing leaders in one space with hopes that we would all share our missions and find a way to utilize our platforms in pursuit of one common goal….to make a difference in the lives of young people. The Mixer was indeed a success!
We believe that with adequate involvement, excellent communication, time and trust a great collaboration can be successful, and we can change a life today and a nation tomorrow!
Mrs. Tomaro Pilgrim, MS