“Knowing will be more valid—richer, deeper, more true to life and more useful if…our knowing is grounded in our experience, expressed through our art, understood through theories which make sense to us, and expressed in worthwhile action in our lives.”
— Peter Reason, “A Laypersons’ guide to cooperative inquiry,” University of Bath, 1998
If the Discover phase was an abundant supply of delectable choices, the Define phase was about focusing on what was chosen. It was the stage of deepening relationships, defining the focus of the work more specifically, and exploring how the group wanted to work together. The overall guidance was for each group to articulate their roadmap for the collaboration: what specifically would they focus on? What would that work look like? And what did success look like for them?
The emphasis was on supporting the women’s funds to co-create their vision and how they would move towards it. The facilitation team held the process, the space, as well as the responsibility for giving back to the women’s funds what they were hearing. They also challenged women’s funds to think critically, to analyze the choices they were making, and think expansively yet practically.
Collaboration can be hard. It takes time to integrate diverse work styles. Human dynamics can get messy. And things never quite go the way you anticipated. The process was intended to set them up for success. Not only did they dig into the what and the how—they also defined the values that would guide their work; they defined roles, discussed how they would resolve any challenges or conflicts, as well as how they would make decisions. They had to tackle questions about how to strike a balance between their individual needs and their collective interests. How would those two components support and complement each other.
A series of rich conversations supported the women’s funds to achieve clarity. To reduce the burden on women’s funds, the facilitation teams did the heavy lifting of writing the plan that emerged from the co-creation process. The women’s funds reviewed the plan to make sure that it captured their ideas. In the end, each group had a plan that articulated their two-year journey.
Each facilitator supported the particular group they worked with in creative and engaging ways, always adapting to the needs of the particular group of women’s funds. This meant women’s funds could show up to engage fully in the process of building relationships and co-creating their collaboration. Along the way, relationships got stronger, and insights emerged about what it means to work across time zones, languages, and approaches.
Despite our commitment to support this process, it was still very demanding.
Collaboration takes time. It takes resources. And above all it takes commitment to the vision and to each other. We honored the work that the women’s funds had done by increasing the total budget in order to fully resource all 13 Collaboration Groups!
Next step: Refine!