Collaboration across difference

So many of the approaches, tools and practices needed to transform our current crises already exist, yet may not be visible or accessible. Collaboration can help reveal, amplify and co-create common cause with others aligned with inner-led approaches to social and ecological change. It can increase our confidence to centre and amplify these approaches to enable greater visibility, leverage and traction within the wider process of cultural transformation.

Genuine collaboration relies on building relationships, trust and skills, negotiating difference and having the tools and safety to transform arising conflicts into potentially transformative breakthroughs. Without this, the shadow sides of collaboration can flourish, which includes power-dynamics going underground, cultural and political appropriation and diluting the radical potential of approaches to suit a neo-liberal agenda.

Collaborating across difference offers an opportunity to strengthen our muscle around learning how to sit with and transform the discomfort that different perspectives, approaches and ways of being can activate within us. Collaboration that does not actively seek to welcome, include and navigate difference tends to exacerbate the status quo, that is, the very culture that created our current crises.

Knowing our limits and holding healthy boundaries around those behaviours that make it impossible for our group to function healthily, is also vital - as long as these boundaries are being held within a wider context of working towards becoming more able to collaborate across difference, whilst also taking responsibility these boundaries being due to our own limits to embrace difference, rather than because certain behaviours are wrong.

Many of the behaviours that groups and institutions dedicated to social and ecological change find challenging (e.g. being emotionally sensitive) or undermining of safety (e.g. displays of anger or aggression) are the result of nervous-system dysregulation resulting from trauma - which tends to be most present in those with the most experience of marginalization and oppression. This is why it is essential not to make these behaviours wrong, but rather acknowledge our own, or our group’s limitation in being able to include them just now.

Council is an ancient way and modern practice whose roots are within the natural world, spanning diverse cultures and religions. This practice elicits an experience of true community, recognizing that each voice needs to be heard, that every person has a gift, a story to share, a piece of the whole. How do we remember all our relations, embrace differences, and find our own voices, while opening to others? It seems more than ever an essential time in our nation and around the world, to awaken this deep relational heart-mind.

Gigi Coyle and Jack Zimmerman

Image credit

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash