CollaborateUp CEO’s Insights on the Latest Trends Shaping Our Industry

Do you need a facilitator for your multi-stakeholder collaboration?

Collaboration sounds like a “kindergarten lesson”, right? Don’t eat paste, don’t run with scissors, and play nice with others. How hard can it be, right? Actually, the higher the stakes, the harder it gets. Why? Humans are really good at hierarchy. If we know who’s in charge, we do rather well. Parents have known ways of relating to children, subordinates to managers, prime contractors to subcontractors. What makes multi-stakeholder collaboration different from these established patterns is the voluntary nature of it. The parties in a public-private partnership are more like sovereign states — everyone thinks of themselves as independent and not subject to the direction of any other party. This kind of collaboration needs more deliberate dialogue on the terms of the relationships and a structure for keeping everyone aligned and working together.

Enter the CollaborateUp Formula. Our Formula brings order to an otherwise chaotic process, using a step-by-step approach backed by tools and checklists, and guided by trained and certified facilitators. Our facilitators take people through a process for agreeing on the problem, setting the terms of collaboration among the parties, how they will measure success, and how they will resolve conflicts when they arise. 

One of the things that sets CollaborateUp facilitators and our facilitation process apart is that we facilitate the group, not the agenda. Many facilitators develop an agenda and then slavishly adhere to it, becoming uncertain or less effective when their agendas derail — almost an inevitability in high stakes situations. We know from the beginning that the complexity of the difficult problems we set out to tackle combined with the intense group dynamics involved mean we must remain agile.

To achieve this level of agility, our facilitators are trained to:

  • Start with the end in mind. When we plan any meeting we start by helping our clients define a Purpose and a set of Outcomes for their collaboration overall and for any meetings. The Purpose answers why this group is coming together and why this meeting or meetings will help tackle a given problem. The group’s Outcomes define the tangibles the collaboration and meetings will produce. 
  • Adapt and apply a set of proven principles for effective groups. A good principle beats a best practice because if we know “why” we do something, we can better adapt to changing conditions. Our facilitators have a grounding in these principles and a toolkit of practices, tools, and methods they can draw upon, adapting as they go to achieve the group’s Purpose and Outcomes. 

Know when to lead, know when to follow. With a good understanding of the Purpose and Outcomes our clients want to achieve in their meetings and a grounding in the proven principles of effective groups, our facilitators can adapt to the needs of the group, knowing when to guide them and when to be guided by them.

It’s become popular in our culture to run down meetings as boring or pointless. And most of them are. But, as Margaret Mead famously said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” Those committed people didn’t change the world via email or tweet. They got together in meetings — the fundamental unit of human collaboration. At CollaborateUp, we’ve set out to change the world, one meeting at a time. To learn how you can improve your next meeting, take a look at the CollaborateUp Academy.