How might we collaborate more effectively within our community?

Following a productive Q1 Creative Roundtable, we reflect on the ideas brought to light about the fundamentals, foundations, and futures of collaboration. It felt only right to bring this conversation online, to share the group’s thoughts and ideas beyond our local Brighton base, and into a more accessible digital space. We welcome you to the digital table, and invite you to share your thoughts in whatever way feels right.

 

What does collaboration mean?

Reflecting on past successful partnerships, themes of transparency, honesty, and two-way communication came up in favour of siloed work and solo ventures.

There’s power in people, and whilst we navigate a business blueprint designed to draw a clear path towards a North Star, we are learning how to collaborate from a community development perspective. Being agile and responsive to changing needs speaks to pursuing the best outcomes for all stakeholders, working towards a future rooted in an inclusive and creative collaborative practice.

Key Points:

  • Define a North Star for everyone to align to. What are we collaboratively aiming for?
  • Be responsive to changing needs. Get good at listening before making decisions.

 

Creating space to advocate

The titles that represent levels of responsibility and experience in the industry can prescribe a disparity. Typically, the more letters after your name, the more volume your voice has, overlooking countless views and opinions with loud repercussions. We discussed how everyone can and should be part of the conversation - it’s rarely the case that people can’t articulate their opinion or perspective, but more likely that they don’t have the platform, opportunity, or space to be listened to. But how do we make that happen?

Key Points:

  • Invite other perspectives into the conversation. Who is at the receiving end, and what do they have to say?
  • Gather both internal and external viewpoints for more effective decision making. Check in with employees and clients quarterly to sense check performance of culture based OKRs.

 

Place building blocks for accessible collaboration

There isn’t an easy strategy for creating an accessible space for collaboration. The more we learn, the more we realise that disability isn’t a monolith, and the room needs to be as flexible and reactive as the different people sharing the space. Speaking round the table we recognised the importance of inclusive and diverse workforces that have lived experience. Having the knowledge and expertise of how we can shape not just an accommodating space, but a welcoming space for everyone who wants to be there, is a necessary step in making collaboration accessible.

Key Points:

  • Create spaces that share the same flexibility as people. Can it change as needs do?
  • Lean on lived experience and perspective. It should feel like you ‘want’ to be there, not that you ‘have’ to be.

 

Decentralise leadership and create co-ownership

In many ways, creating a balanced shared space requires direction and guidance, steering us towards the type of collaboration that gives everyone an opportunity to speak. Is this role always destined for one? Or can we share the load and generate new perspectives and facilitate innovative ideas?

There’s a lot to be said for democratising these structures to allow everyone to “have a go”. It involves trust, honesty, and humility, allowing for a space receptive to criticism and open for accountability. Feeling involved is connected to being informed and invested, moving away from typically top-down choices from stakeholders, and into collaborative decision making. Shifting the authority from one to many cancels out hierarchies, and reinstates a collective effort that respects everyone’s values and opinions as equal. Assuming you are wrong and allowing for silence speaks volumes - give shared control a go.

Key Points:

  • Give ownership to others for them to feel connected, informed and invested.
  • Assume you are wrong, and make room for collective effort with equal footing.

 

Shaping a future for the next generation

Think back to when you were an emerging creative finding your feet in the industry. What did you need? What were you looking for? What would have been helpful to plug the gap between not knowing, and growing?

Providing mentorship, supporting representative workforces, and demonstrating humility all contribute towards a healthy culture of collaboration, in and beyond the industry. We identified the importance of vulnerability and honesty on both sides of a mentoring relationship, the celebration of soft skills and failing fast leading to a shared understanding of imposter syndrome and professional insecurities. Normalising these conversations in a work environment helps to foster drive and recognise ambition, two core facets of successful creative business trajectories.

Key Points:

  • Encourage a healthy culture of collaboration through mentorship and representation.
  • Normalise insecurities and foster drive and ambition. Open up channels of communication within and beyond your team to facilitate transparent dialogue.

 

What can we do now to foster collaboration?

  • Don’t just welcome people to the table, invite them. Shed pretension and shape a representative space that’s authentically inclusive.
  • Facilitate collaboration that is accessible. Budget for reasonable adjustments and create channels for communication where people feel comfortable asking for changes.
  • Try implementing weekly standups for your whole team. Regular communication across roles helps to level out the playing field. Put titles to one side and share what’s been happening behind the scenes.
  • Go with the consensus. Have an appreciation for the many parts of the conversation. Informed and involved decision making creates positive collective autonomy.
  • Contribute to something bigger than yourself. Understand the bigger picture, and give without expectation of receiving anything back.
  • Champion co-ownership, trust, and decentralised leadership. Create low risk scenarios for everyone to be included in decision making. Build trust and confidence for the whole team, until bigger risk is trusted in everyone's hands.
  • Write a manifesto for the next generation of creative collaborators. What are your values and visions? Design a roadmap to guide young people into productive collaboration.