Integral Community Building & Collaboration Ecology – 04 Collaborating for Community

Collaboration that creates and applies knowledge, understanding and eventually wisdom to create real community is very sophisticated behavior. Apart from subject matter expertise, skills, competence and experience (which are basic to competitive endeavours as well) the communities of practice that Community Development Professionals build require agreement and shared values, trust among individuals and organizations, and the efficient, full sharing of ideas, information, practises and processes. It rests upon the participants’ alignment with common intentions and works towards realizing a common purpose, goal or vision which is typically creative or innovative in nature.

As much as it is true that community development — being a dynamic, interdependent process with a diversity of participants — can be learned only through experience, it is also true that there are environments and processes that greatly enhance this learning. As a complex[1], and because of the required trust, potentially fragile process it needs a safe surrounding to germinate. Professional community development can really only be achieved properly by people who have matured sufficiently beyond the need for personal stardom (egotism), and who have understood that collaboration requires equal respect of all for all. Resilient, sustainable communities can best be regarded as voluntary, self-managing processes that can only be encouraged and facilitated — there will most likely never be standardized practices beyond the creation of an ecology of values, purposes and principles that foster collaboration and the personal contact with and facilitation by a Community Development Professional. The replicability of this process lies in the education of and in sufficient support structures for Community Development Professionals.

Community development starts with rediscovering or creating common ground: shared experiences and/or values, intentions, visions. The environment in which it develops easily is one of being attentively and open-mindedly present to others, giving authentic feedback and “being yourself”, expecting others to likewise be; a willingness to accept differences in perspective, perception and opinion. This is relatively easy once a deep mutual understanding of “our commonality of intention, vision and value” has taken root.

To use economic terms, “Developing community requires ongoing investments in intangible assets over extensive periods of time.” Building trust, which is the major ingredient of effective and successful communities, takes time as does creating an atmosphere or ecology of common values, purpose and all the other hard to measure human traits that community is made of. Engaging conversations that connect people and are the stuff relationships are mostly made of; developing community is an investment in people and their creativity and inventiveness and it involves unpredictable outcomes. Developing communities that have real value, if it is regarded as an actual financial investment done by one or more stakeholders, is a challenging “business” and should be well considered beforehand. However, the economic results are definitely measurable as they demonstrate reduced risks, faster performance and greater or new sources of revenues; and solving organisational, social and environmental challenges through the application of collective wisdom, challenges that, if not handled properly, easily can cause substantial economic losses.



Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5

[1] Actually the process of collaboration is only complex when regarded through analytical and linear lenses. When regarded from within a collaborating entity it is a naturally unfolding emergent dynamic system which is often better regarded as a work of art, ‘practical beauty’ is a term that comes to mind; a beauty that is easily seen in a natural landscape or ecology.