Friday, September 18, 2020
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Collaboration: Nobody ever came up with a great idea all by themselves

For our country to succeed requires the combined efforts of all of us, in all walks of life. By working together we can build the country of our dreams. (Then) together let us work with other nations for peace and happiness across our continent and our globe. — Nelson Mandela

This powerful challenge of Mandela’s is a call to a certain group of people to unity of action or collaboration, so as to achieve a greater good for themselves, and ultimately for those beyond their ken.

Perhaps most of us are not considering the unity of a whole country as our immediate goal. But for any worthwhile concern, exploring the call to collaboration is a popular exercise these days!

Collaboration may be defined as the interdependence of all parties’ gifts and talents for the achievement of a mutually agreed upon goal. It has many characteristics, such as:

  • a common mission
  • a desire to work together toward this mission, and
  • a delineation of the values, gifts and commitment of all parties.
  • Some authors, for example Loughlan Sofield and Carrol Juliano, describe the nature of collaboration as relational, with a danger that group relations may erupt into anger and conflict. But the opposite result is probably more common: many friendships are forged, and the few difficult situations are often overcome through the commitment of the parties to a stated goal.

I would like to offer two examples of collaboration which may illustrate some of the above comments and relate to I.C.A. Canada’s emphasis on the “value of the collaborative approach as a means to making a difference.”

In the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto there are many Religious Congregations of women and men. Historically, these groups have, for the most part, carried out their ministries independent of one another. Today, due to many factors, new and different types of ministries are needed. So, one Congregation posed a question to the others: “Would you be willing to have a conversation about a shared or joint ministry?”

Because of a positive response from everyone, a meeting was held of the leaders of these Congregations. So the concept of a Joint Apostolic Ministry was born — affectionately known as “jam.” It took approximately one year to determine the overall focus of the ministry: a ministry to and with new immigrants living in Toronto. A small group of dedicated women and men religious spent many months of the second year working out the practical issues of this collaborative venture:

  • a Board of Directors was formed, which organized
  • corporate status in order to ensure visibility of the ministry;
  • each Congregational member determined their commitment: financial, personnel, and/or prayer,
  • an Executive Director, Peter McKenna SCJ, was hired,
  • a pilot project was established, to be reviewed for its sustainability after 2 years
  • a charitable number was obtained so as to provide receipts for donations;
  • personnel from the member Congregations were recruited — to date 35 companions for new families to Canada, and 45 prayer partners for individuals.
  • "Jam" (Becoming Neighbours) has just completed its first year of this ministry, and at the year-end party over 100 people attended. Many new immigrant families came, some in their native attire, as well as the women and men companions and prayer partners.

Only through this collaborative approach could this outcome be achieved, i.e. no one Religious Congregation could make such a difference in the lives of the participants.

The next example is a collaboration of the Women Religious of Toronto. It began in 1999 with a “working group” which recommended a programme to build affordable housing to celebrate the Jubilee Year of 2000. Because their concept was different than other affordable housing projects (ownership instead of rental housing) the City Council determined this would be a pilot project.

Since the inception of this endeavour, some 41 Women Religious Congregations have partnered with Habitat for Humanity, and a developer well known for innovative approaches to providing affordable housing. So far the accomplishments of this collaboration (WRP Neighbourhood Housing) include:

  • forming a Board of Directors
  • obtaining a corporate status and charitable number
  • gathering a wonderful group of volunteers, including a very well known architect and a group of dedicated lay professionals, who have piloted this project through City Hall.
  • Suffice it to say: this collaborative approach has provided those of us on the Board with extended experience at various committees of the City Council and several appearances before Council itself. However, when the 60 houses are built, a huge difference will occur in the lives of the families who will own their homes.

My personal preference for new ventures is this collaborative approach. The setbacks, the celebrations, the newly formed relationships plus the wonderful ideas that have been generated are incentive enough to constantly renew our commitment to the projects at hand.

Nobody ever came up with a great idea all by themselves — Thomas Edison, 1847-1931

By Margaret Myatt CSJ
Reprinted from Edges, the magazine published by The Canadian Institute of Cultural Affaires. October 2007. Copyright by ICA Canada, 655 Queen St. East, Toronto, ON Canada M4M 1G4. Used with permission of the publisher.


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