One thing is for certain: Those conditions will not be about the stuff (the product, the program, the money, the paperwork). They will be about the people. Because when things fall apart, it’s not about the stuff; it’s about how the people feel about that stuff.
At the core of successful partnerships, therefore, we will find the issue of shared values – the things that are held as most important to each of the parties. If those “most important things” are not shared, then neither money nor product nor anything else will keep that partnership together.
On December 15th, Creating the Future’s board and community members will discuss the conditions for success for our own partnerships. The timing for this discussion couldn’t be better, as more and more groups are approaching us, using that word – partnership. Watch and join that discussion here.
When it comes to the values at the core of our own partnerships, here is what we know so far.
1) Creating the Future is an experiment.
Creating the Future’s mission is to see what could be different in 10 years, if people everywhere were asking the kinds of questions that bring out the best in themselves and those around them. How much more humane could the world be 10 years from now?
Seeing everything through the lens of our mission (as any mission-driven organization seeks to do) therefore means seeing everything we do through the lens of that experiment.
2) Conditions for a Successful Experiment
Per Wikipedia’s definition of the Scientific Method, “In general, the strongest tests of hypotheses come from carefully controlled and replicated experiments.”
For our work, that controlled constant is Catalytic Thinking, a set of practices that have, throughout the ages, consistently brought out the best in people and situations. Without that constant of Catalytic Thinking, we don’t really have an experiment – we have a bunch of independent, relatively purpose-driven activities.
3) For conditions to be consistent, they must be consistent from start to finish.
Imagine this: A biologist studying bacteria under a microscope gets markedly different results from his colleagues. Upon closer inspection, they find that this particular biologist wasn’t wearing gloves and did not wash his hands after using the bathroom, significantly altering the conditions in which that bacteria as interacting. It doesn’t take a scientist to know that it’s not just the specimen on the slide that matters, but everything related to the experiment from start to finish.
To maintain the viability of this grand experiment of Creating the Future, conditions must be as constant as possible from start to finish. It’s not enough for the project itself to use Catalytic Thinking – the slide under the microscope. We must assume the experiment begins the minute the conversation begins. For a project to make sense for us as partners, therefore, the experiment must move beyond just the content of the project. Every aspect of the development of the project must model Catalytic Thinking from inception to “done.”
Here’s an example:
We have been approached by several large initiatives, asking us to teach Catalytic Thinking in their communities. On the surface, that looks like it would align with the education portion of our mission.
The partnerships we have chosen to take on were those where, from the very first conversation, Catalytic Thinking guided every decision we collectively made. One example is the educational conference Creating the Future co-designed and co-created as an experiment with the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (you can follow every step of that project’s development at the category link here).
Another is a current project, a pilot project to determine the effects of teaching Catalytic Thinking to people working in a specific field of human services in a large geographic area. That project has been co-created using Catalytic Thinking at every step.
In both those cases, from the first phone call, the projects have been co-designed, co-developed, co-budgeted and co-calendared. In both cases, the constant of Catalytic Thinking through all those processes gives credence to this being an experiment.
The invitations that do not turn into projects are those where the other party really wants a contractor / vendor. Through conversation, we quickly learn whether a group already has a project defined and simply wants Creating the Future to fit into a pre-determined role (trainer, convener, facilitator, community-builder, content provider) or if they are open to using Catalytic Thinking to co-create the project from the start. Those “vendor” conversations generally stay close to questions of “when” and “how” and “how much,” with little room for exploring anything beyond their predetermined scope.
The Goal of Our December 15th Conversation
We are hoping the end result of our discussion this month will be a statement of our values in action when it comes to partnering / experimenting together. We could then post that statement at our website, on the “Experimenting as a Partner” page.
And yes, we will be using Catalytic Thinking for that discussion.
If the high potential of any project we embark upon is to experiment to accomplish our mission…
And if that means both the content of the project and the partnership process itself would model our mission and values in action from the start…
What would that look like in action, from start to finish in a partnership?
What would all parties need to feel? What would all parties need to be assured of? What would all parties need to know?
You’ll find that discussion happening on December 15th (1pm ET) at the post linked here.
In the meantime, we want to hear your own experiences with “partnership alignment.” Because these issues affect organizations of all kinds – government agencies, small businesses, large corporations, and community benefit organizations.
What have been your best tips for finding alignment of core values?
And what has been the result?