Weaving collaboration: Exploring new possibilities in post-quake Canterbury

At a recent Community Leadership Day organised by the Christchurch City Council (Shirley Papanui ward), a colleague of mine Dr Billy O'Steen and I presented a workshop with the title above -"weaving collaboration".  At the beginning of the session we held up a very large Tongan fine mat (as photographed in the slides below) and asked the leaders to reflect on the ways in which a woven mat could be a metaphor for collaboration...... idea emerged such as....it takes more than 6 people to weave a mat like that at the same time, its incredibly strong compared to the strength of each thread, it can carry weight, people dialogue while weaving a mat, you can sit on a mat and it protects you, it has a pattern which incorporates diverse colours and textures....etc....

We then suggested that the most urgent need in Christchurch (a city 3 years on from disaster and still very much in the beginnings of recovery) was the weaving of collaboration, strategic partnerships, alliances and interconnected initiatives across diverse and sometimes opposing groups and individuals.   This gnarly collaboration is forged under intense pressure and amongst strong emotion.  We shared some of the key principles we had learnt in building such collaborations.......as seen in slide below...

A key principle is awareness of the temptation to resort to a simple either-or scenario where different parties take sides around any particular issue.... and the vital decision for leaders to instead adopt a both-and approach - refusing to take sides but instead looking at the issue from both perspectives simultaneously - acknowledging the partial truth in each....

Finally we shared two examples of new collaborative processes in Christchurch, one in Riccarton West Community and one in the Heathcote Community. Both of these were forged over time and through the patient weaving of 'invisible threads' based on authentic relationships, shared vision, small steps and people working alongside each other over the long term.  


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