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Charlotte Millar makes excellent points about competition, collaboration and building community. Her post is a refreshing antidote to the widespread devaluation of the word “collaboration”. I appreciate her emphasis on the time it takes to build the trust that enables true collaboration (instead of our habitual competition) so I’ve quoted from her post with my own italics added below:

How to stop competing and start building community

To get the most out of a community, you need a shared strategy, a space to grow, and to practice liberation.

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Our neoliberal society pits us against each other, we must compete with one another to be the “best” in all spheres of life: at work, in our looks, in how popular we are. The list is endless. We learn that we are not enough; that we must constantly improve to “get ahead”. As Buddist psychotherapist Tara Brach says:

This breeds a culture of shame and separation. We learn early on that any affiliation – with family, friends, school or the workplace – requires proving we are worthy.  Someone is always keeping score.”

The best way to break free from our shame is to acknowledge and share it through community, creating bonds of friendship and support. 

While community helps us at an individual level, it’s also a strategy for wider systemic change. If we want to address the entrenched injustices and suffering in the world, then, put simply, activists will need to work together. By building communities, we create stronger groups of activists working in concert to achieve more ambitious change. We also create a counter to the individualistic neoliberal cultural that predominates in most realms of our lives.

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The communities I helped to build had three key features: a strategy for collective impact, a safe space for personal growth and a practice ground for liberation.

Strategy for collective impact

Working with others means we increase our collective power and impact. But in order to work well together, there needs to be at least two basic conditions in place: high-trust relationships and some sense of shared strategy. If we don’t trust each other or understand each other’s approach to change, our efforts will most likely crack under pressure.

Community helps us put in place these two basic conditions. By being in an open and supportive space, we are enabled to open up and share more about ourselves, creating intimacy and strong bonds. This builds the bedrock for effective collaboration. As the social change theorist Marshall Ganz says: “relationships precede action.”

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Safe space for personal growth

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Our participants support each other to take risks, to try, to fail and to learn together. Without this space to grow and innovate, we are unlikely to try more radical approaches to change.

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Practice ground for liberation

Finally, community can help us start to heal the wider fractures in society that echo throughout the progressive movement.

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In creating a community that is anchored in this kind of deep honesty, we create a loving space, where we can admit our weaknesses or our sense of shame. In doing so, we become more powerful: we can take on challenging work, free from the fear that others will “find out” our weaknesses. And perhaps most importantly for activists working for systemic change, having liberated ourselves from our own fears, we are able to create a safe space for others to understand where they have been made to feel small and ashamed and to step into their own power.

Ultimately, I am learning that being in community really means being in service to systemic change, and to each other. 

To read the full post see – How to stop competing and start building community