Collaboration challenges - and lessons from Yehudi Menuhin and Stephane Grappelli

This was first posted in Posterous  on 13/02/2011. It's reposted here for easy reference because Posterous has been discontinued.
 As a personal preparation for the CotW skype meeting this evening (7 pm my time) I have been thinking about CotW and its proposed "dating site", which is to help organistions and people in CotW to meet up with each other.

Coalition of the Willing

These are some  of my thoughts - not necessarily well structured and neatly connected to each other - just so I've got them better prepared than if they are only in my head.

Thinking it through - writing about it

I tried writing to John Dada about the CotW "dating site" yesterday, as a preparation, but I couldn't find the right "connecting points".

In the end I wrote to Nikki - who writes our weekly agenda - but really I was writing to myself - to see how I/Dadamac can best connect with this wonderful energy and vision of CotW and the opportunities of its "dating site" to link up with others and be more efective together than we can be separately..

Writing that email helped me a bit, but not enough. (Agenda Item - Dadamac matching up Coalition of the Willing with Fantsuam KRC Attachab etc,

Thinking it through - talking about it

Then I went round to a friend and had the kind of chat I have with my closest friends (i.e. either "deep" or "silly"- I'm not good at small talk or gossip). I was still thinking about the "dating site issue" so, amongst many other things, we explored the rich tapestries of our past lives and relationships. We compared our "reality" (our "dating histories" for want of a better description) with the "reality" of the "dating site model".

Our realities had very little to do with any "dating site approach" - no "age matching" or "height matching" or any other easily described attribute to limit the scope of our past relationships that might have been included in the category of "dating". Often some kind of hobby or shared interest (including "a person" known to both parties) had enabled the original meeting, because paths have to cross in some way. . I wasn't sure how that helped me ref the CotW dating site analogy.

Being included through "we're together"

Something that kept coming through in our discussion was the richness of relationships that take you into previously unknown cultural territory - and also the interest of being included in new situations simply because "we're together" and the other person already belongs there.

I think that is part of what I am looking for on behalf of Dadamac in CotW - that mutual enrichment that happens when cultures combine.

Dadamac connects to rural Nigeria (and elsewhere in "non-elite" Africa). The poorest and most margianalized people are the ones most vulnerable to the environmental shocks and instabilities of climate change. The CotW conversation has started amongst people who come from high-tech societies who, it is to be hoped, are most likely to be in touch with possible solutions to some of the challenges of adapting to climate change on the ground. Surely these two groups should be exchanging information with each other.

Tapping into expertise that I know I need but find it hard to connect with

I think it is the socio-tech aspects of CotW that most attract me. For me there is something in the knowledge and skills of the CotW core team that I want to be able to tap into    - some of the strategies and structures for collaboration and communication that I want to become more familiar with - because I am deeply and actively concerned with exploring and developing effective online collaboration strategies.

Being included in CotW

I think that "being included" is an important part of CotW - but there is uncertainty about what is or is not really to be included.

For those of us who favour an "emergent" approach to organisational development uncertainty is not a big problem. But then if  we come up against organisational structures that are being defined before they have emerged we get confused. How can you impose structures so early? Isn't that rather like buying a set of clothes for someone you've never met? Aren't you making a lot of assumptions if you do that?  Won't the newcomer have to fit your pre-conceptions even if  "your clothes" are not their size or style and they don't feel "themselves" dressed like that?

I guess that is why I am just dropping in now and again at the moment. I get encouraged by the passion and energy of the core team, and I marvel at what they know and how good they are at what they do.

When they talk about "bricolage" and "agile tech" and generally letting things happen then I feel "at home". When they get techie, or into tight definitions and structures, then I don't have anything to offer so I go away again to get on with others things where I can be more useful. 

I'll keep coming back to see what is emerging. I'll join in more when I recognise something where I will have something to contribute.

Climate change - the focus of CotW

But what of the content ? ....

What of the shared purpose behind CotW?

What of the climate change agenda that is central to CotW? 

Can I be a CotW person if my attention is also taken up with other things? 

I see huge overlap between CotW and many Dadamac intiatiaves and interests, but climate change is not our main focus. I think that is part of my problem.

A pre-dating site grid

I think helping people to find shared interests is what the "dating site" is about - and I do want to be part of that - but I don't feel comfortable with that either. I feel a need for a more loosely defined initial conversation space - like we had in Lucy's session last week at the really Free School.

What of the "culture" of CotW?

According to wikipedia a coalition is a pact or treaty among individuals or groups, during which they cooperate in joint action, each in their own self-interest, joining forces together for a common cause. This alliance may be temporary or a matter of convenience. A coalition thus differs from a more formal covenant. Possibly described as a joining of 'factions', usually those with overlapping interests rather than opposing.

Maybe the people who like structure will, by definition, define structures and choose to work within them.

Maybe the people who are more emergent will, by definition, emerge.

There will be overlap - people (like Michael Maranda) who seem to know both cultures and be able contribute positively in either.

Maybe the two groups will converge, and flow together

Referring back to wikipedia, I think that:

"a pact or treaty among individuals or groups" is more the style of the people who like structure.

"cooperate in joint action, each in their own self-interest, joining forces together for a common cause. This alliance may be temporary or a matter of convenience." is the overlapping area

"Convergence" (of the Willing) perhaps defines the style of people who prefer emergence - rather than "Coalition"

An encouraging example of cultural confluence.

Yesterday when I was thinking about the problems of acheiving cultural convergence I was reminded of

classical violinist  Yehudi Menuhin - e.g. plays Beethoven violin concerto

jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli -  e.g. starting out with Django Reinhardt

and Live in San Francisco. 1982.

 this is the important one - where they first come together  - a collaboration that developed and continued -

I think we can be encouraged by cross cultural collaborations like this.