Getting it All to Fit Together

Find people and organizations that can complement each other.  There are a lot of organizations working on similar issues.  Some seem like they are doing the exact same thing while others seem completely unrelated.   When one takes a big picture view, each organization can be seen as gears and components of a big, problem solving machine.  The trick is to figure out ways to get each piece to fit together in ways that complement each other.  Sometimes this is obvious while other times you have to be creative.

creative collaboration!

Sometimes you can get seemingly unrelated groups to work together to do something cool. I have fond memories of an unlikely collaboration between a production company, a litter focused non-profit, a community media outlet and a beer distributor.  It was meant to build community pride in a rapidly changing, industrial neighborhood that had been littered with trash.  It became known as the “Litter Brigade Music Parade”.  My friend Eddie White used his production company, Awendaw Green to organize a marching band to perform at a venue owned by local beer distributor, Palmetto Brewing Company that was located in the area in question. Todd from Charleston GOOD contacted the litter-focused non-profit, Keep Charleston Beautiful(KCB), and arranged for volunteers by promoting the event on his web-based media outlet, At the event, the marching band led the KCB volunteers outside the venue and down the street where they picked up trash with their grand grooved to the rhythms for everyone to see and hear.  This was a fun way to bring several groups together to clean up the area and bring attention to the litter problems.

Sometimes it is about getting similar organizations to come together and share resources.   Grow Purpose is presently putting together a team to help a group of performing arts groups.  The arts add so much to a community from cultural identity, hopefulness, expression, stress relief, tranquility, inspiration, and so many other things. Artist are usually fantastic at their craft, and often struggle when it comes to business and administration.  If they could get a competent administration team to handle the marketing, finance, accounting, and other business related activities, they could spend more time on what they do best: making great art.  Many arts organizations do not have the budget to hire professional marketing and finance personnel. That is why so many organizations try to do everything themselves.  If they shared resources, they may  be able to share an administration team.  Most organizations do not need a full time business team. Many of the performing arts have a similar audience.  People that go to a theater event often go to music events.  By sharing the expenses of a business and administration team, they can access quality personnel who understand their business and allows them to cross pollinate so that all of their audiences are aware of each of their events.  This gives them an option to learn and grow together.

One way to ensure success is to make sure everyone is assigned things that they can do well or have the ability to step up and learn quickly.  It is important that each person or organization has the skills and capability to do what they are best at.   When people are doing what they are good at, there is very little need for management. All that needs to be done is making sure everyone is informed and ready when it is time to do their job.

Identify the strengths and function of each component. Usually each organization is really good at certain things and not so great at others. Identify the things that each individual or organization does extremely well.  Sometimes this takes people from the outside take an objective view.  By doing an honest self analysis, one can identify strengths and weaknesses.  Collaborations help each part of the team concentrate on their strengths and let others help fill in where needed.

Keeping everything running also requires a good maintenance plan.  This helps to identify and address problems and issues that may arise during the collaboration.  Problems are bound to arise.  It is important to have a plan and policy in place to repair or replace the malfunctioning component quickly so the problem does not shut down the whole operation.

Working with multiple groups provides the opportunity to share resources and lean on one another so there are people who can step up when something is not working right.  If a component needs to be replaced, others can hold everything together while a replacement is installed.

A great deal more can get accomplished when individuals and organizations see each other as collaborators and not competitors. The puzzle pieces are sometimes all spread out across the board.  It often takes someone with vision to see how they all fit together.

Getting all these different components to fit together, keeping everything organized, and providing the necessary fuel to keep everything running in order to be able to tackle social and environmental issues is not always easy.  Sometimes there are pieces missing that either have to be found or created.

It often comes down to building the right team.  Which we will discuss in the next post.

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