Tag Archives: Collaboration

A Lesson in Teamwork

7 Feb

As the Robert Burns poem, To a Mouse,  famously warns,  “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry).  While I’d like to claim full acceptance and understanding of this, it’s a pretty difficult reality to digest.

We go through our lives being taught the importance of time management and planning ahead. Consequently, failures and problems are often blamed on poor planning or scheduling. As an avid planner, I was excited to begin working on a team service project with some of my fellow Allies. In my mind, as long as we ironed everything out from the start, the project would unfold beautifully.

Unfortunately, life is a bit more unpredictable than that and I experienced the value of something more powerful than any agenda or time task plan: teamwork.

As the Chicago site prepared for the launch of team service projects, my team was having communication difficulties with the organization we planned to work with. Eventually we received news that our project was no longer needed by the organization. After months of work, we found ourselves worried and discouraged.

This was a critical point in our team service project experience because the situation could’ve gone in multiple directions. The worst-case nightmare scenario involved unproductive meetings, bickering, and finger-pointing, but our reality was the complete opposite. Within a week we were contacting new possible partners and arranging capacity assessment meetings, while maintaining the lighthearted optimism I love about my team. Now, we are on our way to finalizing a new project plan.

This experience is a perfect example of why I have no doubts about completing a service year with Public Allies. Serving with amazing individuals on my team service project and within my class in general is changing my perspective on how things get done in an unpredictable, dynamic world. So, I challenge Robert Burns: The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry…Unless you trust the power of teamwork and collaboration.


Contemplating collaboration

12 Jun

On Wednesday, May 30th, the second year allies had the opportunity to facilitate training for the first year allies at Public Allies Maryland. The training discussed leadership, how we define it, what it means to be a “good” or “bad” leader and an “effective” or “ineffective” leader. We also gave them an assessment to discover their own leadership styles after discussing different academic theories about leadership.

However, one of the most moving parts of the training was when my fellow second year ally Shawnice presented the idea of virtue cards. She handed out a card to everyone as a way for us to reflect on our own leadership styles and characteristics; each card featured beautiful pictures of nature as well as a word. The idea behind this is that within every person there is a core set of virtues or values that represent the content of our character. I think the ideas behind the virtue cards really resonates with us as Public Allies because of the five core values that provide the foundation for the work that we do. The word I happened to get, just by chance, was cooperation.

Below you can see a picture of the “cooperation” card front and back.

Reading this card I kept thinking about one of the five core values in Public Allies: collaboration. It’s hard to tell if there’s even a difference between cooperation and collaboration. However, one important difference is that collaboration is done on purpose and is done across boundaries. Collaboration is really a special type of cooperating where you go one step further to include voices that are missing from the discussion and create partnerships in unlikely places. It’s more than just working together to meet a common goal, it’s building a strong team that focuses on the diverse assets each team member brings to the table, empowering others to lead, and working together to achieve something you couldn’t have done alone.

What does “collaboration” mean to you? Share it in the comments below!