While community development may be well lead by one group; good community development can never be done by one group/organisation/Church alone. Diversity is a (never to be underestimated) necessity of healthy, thriving community and it therefore needs to be deliberately fostered in any development process.
But how do you get highly diverse people striving towards a common purpose?
Obviously one key work is to ensure good communication and transparency at all times. For more on facilitating this read my previous post on community consultation.
Another key is to focus on ensuring the work is equitable and mutually beneficial. My experience is that often one group is acting only as a venue or a service to others. Watch for this- because, while this can still be a positive experience, I believe the true benefits of collaboration can only be experienced in mutuality when all groups are pulling towards a common goal.
I experienced a great example of this yesterday when working with a small collective in Hackham (one of the most disadvantaged suburbs in Adelaide’s southern suburbs). All groups represented had a specific interest in working towards better outcomes for children in the area and I was impressed by how quickly the group was able to make the important first step of establishing a common goal.
The group was also able to quickly establish how, in its initial steps, the partnership could fit with existing organisational activities. They were able to name each others strengths and consider how these assets might all be well utilised towards a broader collective impact. Parties responded with generosity, not holding back on what assets could be contributed towards the success of the project.
In the short term we focused on something small and specific that would allow us to have a quick win towards our goal while we began the broader (and arguably more significant) works of developing effective relationships, building trust, and testing the limits and arrangements of the partnerships before moving to more ambitious plans.
What are your experiences (positive and negative) of highly diverse people striving towards a common goal? Do these principles (in bold) sit true for you?