Models of Collaboration

One final observation from the CCMA National Convention that ended yesterday. One of the workshops I attended during the convention was on the subject of Collaboration and the New Evangelization.

In Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization, the USCCB describes what is termed “The New Evangelization” as “a call to each person to deepen his or her own faith, have confidence in the Gospel, and possess a willingness to share the Gospel.”

But the New Evangelization is also, as the workshop presents pointed out, a call to reexamine our way of being Church, finding new ways to achieve the goal of drawing others in to deeper relationship with the Trinity in and through the church. And that is something that requires collaboration.

The presenters identified three ways of understanding collaboration: collaboration for, collaboration with and collaboration from the beginning.

In a collaboration for model, one person plans and decides everything alone and merely seeks the help of volunteers to carry it out. This is passive collaboration, although some might argue it is not really collaboration at all.

Collaboration with means the initiative for a project is started by one person, but others are invited to participate in and have a say in the realization of the project. This is limited active collaboration. The originator has the kernel of an idea, but brings in others to fill in the contours of the project.

Finally, collaboration from the beginning means that all those involved in a task proceed in a communal fashion right from the start. Together they analyze a situation, recognize the need to act, make decisions, realize them. (Some individuals may enter the process later, but from the time they enter, they are involved in making collective decisions.)

I found the descriptions of the three models useful. Many times people use the term collaboration when what they really have in mind is “you do what I tell you to do in order to implement what I’ve already decided should happen.” That may be a more efficient model, but it doesn’t draw on the talents and abilities of others who have a stake in the outcome and who may have ideas better than that originally proposed.

The presenters suggested that to do work of new evangelization, we need a model of collaboration from the beginning (and in the latter part of their talk, talked a little about what that might look like). That is a challenging model to try to implement, but an exciting one.