Module 5 - Step 4: Collaborative planning; Exploring common ground and committing to work togetherModule 5 - Step 4: Collaborative planning; Exploring common ground and committing to work together

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.
Joel A. Barker

Learning about each other:

A collaborative process builds a learning community. At the first meeting the tone needs to be set to create a climate of tolerance, appreciation of diversity and welcoming atmosphere.

Exercises (often called icebreakers) that help people get to know one another are a wonderful to begin the first meeting. It is also wise at the beginning of the process to have each member share what each organization needs out of the process. A hopes and fear icebreaker can help set the tone for this

By developing an understanding of the different missions of member organizations and the needs of individuals coming on their behalf, permits the members of the emerging collaborative to be open with their needs and the expression of self interest. This goes a long way towards building comfort about discussing delicate issues like political dynamics and who gets what issues.

Once you establish an open and honest climate, the group needs to explore the language issue. In many community based processes that cross sector and  professional boundaries, a single word can mean very different things to different kinds of workers; for example an enabler vs. a– in community development terminology it refers to the role of the worker in assisting community members to achieve their goals, but if you work in a substance abuse program it means someone who allows another to behave in destructive ways. And when collaborative processes include end users and community members who are unfamiliar with professional jargon, the use of acronyms and technical explanations will quickly alienate them.

Since we use many terms interchangeably to describe collaboration, the group may want to develop a common lexicon or glossary of terms. Using plain language for definitions will not alienate anyone and will be more inclusive to all.

For a start to your own lexicon see the Wellesley Institute’s Glossary of Collaborative Terms. Download it at



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