By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager
Let’s draw a robot.
But wait, you’re only going to draw the top part of the robot. Then you’re going to swap papers with your neighbor for the middle part of the robot. But you won’t see the top part that was already drawn. Don’t get too comfortable, though, because you’re going to swap papers again with another neighbor and then draw the bottom part of the robot. Like the last time, you won’t be able to see what was previously completed.
What have you done? You’ve drawn a robot as a collaborative effort. You’ve had to put your best foot forward for the good of the collaboration.
“You have to be comfortable in passing the work onto someone else and let them take it to the next step,” says James Adams, Big Thought’s Programs Manager.
Adams, along with Erin Offord, Big Thought’s Senior Director of Programs, presented “Forging Community Collaborations While Building Partner Capacity,” a 75-minute workshop presented March 11, 2016 as part of the recent Beyond School Hours XIX National Education Conference at the Sheraton Hotel Dallas.
That robot activity, a great icebreaker, had the room of 30 workshop participants buzzing. They reached for the colored markers, they anxiously kept the paper folded into three sections so as to not see the previous work, and they gamely traded papers, all the while putting their blind trust in what was already accomplished.
Inside the Dallas A1 banquet room, Beyond School Hours attendees provided a smorgasbord of viewpoints. We had representatives from Arkansas, Mississippi, Washington DC, Oklahoma, Georgia, Puerto Rico and Dallas. The engagement was contagious as Adams and Offord ran through a most informative power point presentation.
The workshop, another in Big Thought’s Sharing Our World and Thought Leadership series, talked about community assets such as key players, spaces and places, and programs; influencers such as the school board, arts commissions, parents and corporations; implementers such as the school district administration; and instructors such as fine arts specialists. It highlighted the guiding principles of community engagement – partnership, purpose, program and product. It also explained Big Thought’s Thriving Minds program, a prime example of community collaborations, via an engaging video and summer guide report.
The way to be innovative is always to listen, respond and learn. If there’s an underlying theme permeating the workshop it was that building powerful partnerships is not only paramount, but also it can be simple and seamless. Grocery stores, parents, and mom-and-pop businesses can be potent community partners. They are right in your back yard.
“You have to be open to what you are going to learn in those conversations with potential community partners,” says Offord. “No one person owns the design. Be successful for the community work ethic.”
And never be afraid to pass the work on. If you’ve built your community partnerships organically and strategically, that robot will practically draw itself.