WS7: Warsaw 9 Dec 2014

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Context: Zaradnik organised by AIR Laboratory CCA Ujazdowski Castle and the Polish National Centre for Culture
Where: AIR Laboratory, Warsaw, Poland
When: 09.12.2014
Participants: 9


Economies and support structures – modes of collaboration



Questions around collaboration
• Is collaboration a craft we can learn?
• What skills do we need to cultivate mutually empowering collaborations?
• What resources and skills can we share within a community of practitioners?
• How to deal with the ups & downs of collective energies and moods?
• What would be the effects of fulfilling my needs and ambitions – for me, the people I care for and about, my peers and the world more generally?
• What effect would my “success” produce for others? Who would benefit from it? Who would lose out?

Notes from discussion
• The importance of learning how to listen to others. Here skills from active listening can be helpful: showing the other through your body language that you are listening, feeding back with questions (for example, inquiring what the other person means with certain words), paraphrasing what the person told you to check if you are giving the same meaning to what is said.
• Collaboration is about finding new solutions together or finding unexpected compromises. But also about knowing when to step back because others might have more constructive proposals or skills to contribute. Here trust is key: trusting in other people’s decisions.
• Allowing for failure, breaks and slow-downs. Taking pressure off each other. Protecting each other from outside pressures to perform perfectly.
• Setting “dates of release” in which ideas are tested even when they are not yet perfect. Waiting to long might lead to missing the point for action but also losing the energy of collaborative work.
• The importance of clear communication and transparency between the people that collaborate. Knowing who is doing (or not doing) what, why, when, etc. But also making it clear what power relations exist: are some people getting paid and others not? Who is getting what out of it? Giving the possibility of speaking constructively about things going wrong.
• The need to create times and structures that fit the needs of the people collaborating. There is little chance for collaborations to succeed if we can’t fit them into our lives.
• Sharing work and responsibilities. Discussing how tasks are distributed and giving the possibility to change roles, to learn new skills in a safe space.
• Creating solidarity beyond your own collaboration. How does your collaboration connect up with others? Does it enable people beyond your own group?
• The importance of defining shared guiding values. Often when they are missing collaborations fall apart when things get tough.
• Finding a balance between process and results. When it’s all about process and no results, frustration can set in. But also when it is all about results and no care is given to the process that produces them.
• Being honest in collaboration and not necessarily being too emotional about it. Sometimes it is just about getting things done. Though emotions are key in cultural work, it is good to be clear when a collaboration is also about emotions, friendship etc. or when it is a strategic move to get things done.
• Define and follow a code of communication in meetings. This helps in allowing everyone to contribute, to work through difficult/complex topics, take decisions and actually finish the meeting at a reasonable point.
• Being aware that we go through many years of schooling that discourages collaboration. There is much to unlearn and to re-learn in terms of what it needs for collaborative work to be empowering and sustainable.
• Be stars together or change that star-let imaginary all together.