Community engagement comes with a lot of uncertainly. It is complex and challenging work. There is one thing, though, that is undeniable:
We cannot impact our neighborhood for good without partnerships.
Forty years of community development in distressed urban neighborhoods in Atlanta has taught FCS that we cannot do this alone. We are so much better together. As essential as collaborative relationships are, we have found that creating effective and sustainable partnerships requires a certain level of skill and type of posture. Everyone loves the idea of partnerships, but not everyone is great at creating them.
If you are a leader who is calling people together for a meeting so they can partner with one another, here are nine questions you need to ask yourself:
1. "Am I asking people to join me in what I have already decided on, or am I really willing to let a new idea emerge from the group?"
2. "Am I listening for what I want to hear or what others are actually saying, and will I make changes based on what I do hear from them?"
3. "In my desire to get something done, am I trying to move faster than the group is ready to move?"
4. "Even though people share the same terminology, do they share the same understanding of those concepts?"
5. "How long did I tell people this meeting would take, and I am preparing to lead the meeting in such a way to respect that time commitment?"
6. "What dynamics in the group might prevent people from feeling safe enough to share openly and honestly?"
7. "Have I thought through the questions I will ask the group so that they will be clear and specific?"
8. "What level of investment are people expecting to make, and am I asking more than that?
9. "Have I communicated clearly to everyone coming to the meeting the purpose/objectives of our time together, and will the meeting I have designed be true to those things?'
If you are a leader working hard to bring people in your community together for collaborative action, bravo! We need more leaders like you! Just know that partnership is easier in our visions than it is in practice. We hope the above questions will give you enough pause to make sure you are practicing the kind of posture that will allow authentic collaboration to happen.
If you would like to contact FCS for consulting to help you in your collaboration building, contact their Director of Training and Education, Dr. Shawn Duncan.