Collaboration Chronicles: Learning To Evolve

Have you heard? The Richmond Community Foundation is collaborating with Volunteer Richmond on a project called Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives. Indeed, we’ve been working together for well over a year now. But lately, things are really starting to pick up. Which is why we’ve decided to start a new blog series – Collaboration Chronicles – to keep you up-to-date on the latest happenings. From progress reports to major announcements, you’ll find it all here. Thanks for reading, and for joining us on what we promise will be a unique and exciting journey. 

There’s a quote often attributed to Charles Darwin, one that, rumour has it, he never actually said. In any case, whether the author is Darwin, or Anonymous, the quote is as follows: “It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

Now, you’re probably thinking that, at this point, we’re going to start writing about how Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives, the collaborative initiative between Volunteer Richmond and the Richmond Community Foundation, is the next evolutionary step for our organizations, a step we’re taking together. While we believe this to be true – certainly, we’re adapting to changing circumstances – we don’t necessarily think that “evolution” is the best lens through which to view our collaboration.

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Like all organizations, we want to become more efficient, and more effective. To do that, yes, we’ll need to evolve, and journey from where we are to where we want to be. But as the quote above implies, for that journey to be successful, something must happen along the way: we must learn to collaborate.

Above all, that’s what this is – a learning process.

We’re learning, for one, that collaboration, at least in the beginning, isn’t easy. We’re talking now about the nitty gritty of working together – issues related to office space, administrative processes, and staff time (or lack thereof). These things don’t just sort themselves out. Just the opposite, in fact. Right now, our collaboration resembles a giant machine full of kinks. It’s going to take time to fine tune everything, but we’re willing to invest that time, because, in the long run, we think it’ll be worth it.

We’re also learning that explaining our collaboration to the community – the reasons behind it, what it will ultimately become – isn’t simply a matter of explaining. It also involves reassuring, clarifying, and, in some instances, even defending. Because when organizations collaborate, the ramifications aren’t only internal; they’re external as well. What we’re doing will impact the community – that’s the point. But we understand that not everyone is so sure that the impact will be positive. For them, it’s our responsibility to offer peace of mind.

More than anything, we’re learning to be flexible. We have a vision for Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives – an endgame we’re working towards. But it’s a ways off yet, and the road to get there will be a long one. It’s here, we think, where the difference between evolving and learning is most pronounced.

When we think of evolution, we think of an inexorable march towards progress. The road from where you are to where you want to be is a straight one. Learning, however, is different. The road isn’t straight, and there’ll be detours along the way.

When you’re travelling a straight road – when you’re evolving – navigation isn’t an issue. You just keep going forward. But when you’re learning, and the path towards progress is less clear, you may need a little help to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

With Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives, we’re lucky to have that help. In the Boards of Volunteer Richmond and the Community Foundation, we have a tremendous leadership group. And the feedback we’ve received from community members has been invaluable. We may not be travelling down a straight path, but, thanks to the guidance we’ve gotten along the way, we know we’re headed down the right one.

And we’re doing it together. Not just Volunteer Richmond and the Community Foundation, but everyone who has a stake in this community. Organizations, businesses, individuals – you’re part of this along with us, collaborating to make Richmond a healthier, more vibrant place to live. To us, that’s the only outcome that matters.

So, as they say, onwards and upwards – and in whatever direction this collaboration takes us. We’re glad to have you along for the ride.