I love visual tools. Taking the time to draw a process or idea helps me better understand it. Visual stories have the ability to magically capture a whole lot of complexity in a snapshot. They are fast and slow at the same time. You are given an immediate impression that you can then settle on and consider. I've used the collaborative continuum from Tamarack over the past few years as a communication tool to explain and explore partnerships. It has helped focus conversations about the constant fluid nature of our partners relationship internally, within the partnership and the movement of their capacity to contribute. Being honest about the TURF to TRUST polarity is critical to keep on the table because its never helpful to hide that discussion.
This month I used this simple tool with a group of 25 staff across 10 agencies to honestly note where they think they are along the road. I asked them to answer honestly considering where they are now. One partner shared with me the sadness of only being able to maintain communication. With a mammoth cut in funding her agency shrunk from 29 to 2 staff this year and is no longer able to participate in working groups and coordinated activities. This continuum activity is not a deep evaluation tool but it is handy for a quick comparative capture. My goal is to use it as an opening activity at our annual priority setting session. I am curious about how the shape will change. As the lone nut in this beautiful and interesting community collaboration, I set aside regular time to reflect and consider how its all going. I've disciplined myself to reflect using the 5 ways of knowing: intellect, memory, sense, intuition and imagination. Our ongoing evaluation framework captures the evidence using the theory and facts of intellect and memory. I've used the continuum tool in this instance to capture how I sense the situation. I played with how my partnership brokering work feels along the way. There is an ease when scoping relationships with partners. All may be well with the status quo and it might feel just fine. When I am matching and helping the partners work deeply in new ways together there is a tension about whether this crazy new uncomfortable way of working together is going to go!
There are just so many iterations and explorations with visuals. As I explored this shape I was not satisfied with the ribbon of energy along the horizontal arrow. Somehow the image wasn't expressing how messy and fluid my work feels. It tugs and pulls at the same time in different directions and it runs fast and goes slow in concentric circles. I think that the round and round and start again and run fast, hurry up and wait is what I like about partnership development. I could write the story in a narrative and create the illusion of a straight line but I wouldn't be doing it justice. My little bit of truth is that I'm grateful and comfortable with the intangible nature of collaboration.