Three Lenses for Collaboration

December 1, 2009 9 Comments

The Interaction Institute for Social Change is a vibrant place, a real learning community; we are always seeking to be on our learning edge.  Our internal strategic process has led us to wonder how to define ourselves for this new era without necessarily losing our 16 years of experience and the power of our proven collaborative methodology.  A couple of things have become even more clear through this process.  It is clear to us, to our clients and partners in the work of social transformation that collaboration is what we do.

We might be working with a single organization or a group of organizations, we may be designing a learning event, a high level facilitation or a citywide change process, but whatever it is that we are doing – collaboration is at its core.  We help people come together and work together.

Personally, I place our work of collaboration within the context of the social sector and my assessment of where we are today.  I believe that too much of the infrastructure we have built over the last 40 years has started to calcify around us.  It is my belief that the effect of this calcification is a sector where the powerful energy of idealism and commitment is too often constrained rather than facilitated.  This is our point of intervention; we use our collaborative approach to unlock the energy constrained in the sector.

We have identified the three lenses from which we look at our collaborative work:

  1. The lens of power, equity and inclusion – I call this the lens of democracy, the lens through which we seek to live in the world we are trying to build instead of replicating the social structures we are trying to shift.
  2. The lens of networks – I call this the lens of ecology, how do we shift away from an organization-centric paradigm into a network paradigm?  How do we take care to build an ecology for transformation, a social space that is more organic and less industrial?
  3. The lens of love – I call this the lens of the Inter-subjective Self.  How do we actively account for the inner-side of leadership?  What are the practices that foster personal transformation in the context of movement?  How do we respond to Dr. King’s call for Beloved Community?

I intend to look more closely at each of these lenses in the coming weeks – your input, questions, insights and ideas are warmly welcomed.

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

Read Part 4


  • Curtis says:

    Thanks, Gibran. This serves as a nice encapsulation of our conversation yesterday about Facilitative Leadership in the new era. And it connects to my tweet the other day about our focus ultimately being on people, place, and planet, NOT organization per se. Need to make sure we don’t confuse the raft for the shore! I also like that you name networks as the lens of “ecology.” This gives it a more organic feel, less mechanistic and controlled, which is often our tendency. I am really struck by how many “masters” of various stripes come to the conclusion that they must work with energy and not against it, do less not more. This requires more attention to our “inner condition” and the bigger systems of which we are a part. Looking forward to your future posts breaking this down some more!

  • Gibran says:

    Thanks for the encouragement Curtis, I agree with everything you’ve said, there is no outside in this work and yet we keep trying to do it from outside our own selves.

    I do look at networks as an ecology of change and one that therefore cannot be siloed!

  • Greg Jobin-Leeds says:

    Hola Gibran,
    Me encanta esta ideas how “too much of the infrastructure we have built over the last 40 years has started to calcify around us… that the effect of this calcification is a sector where the powerful energy of idealism and commitment is too often constrained rather than facilitated…” it makes me think about foundation funding the replication of ?the social structures we are trying to shift?. And how much foundation funding limits when going to the calcified structures and how this dwarfs the powerful energy of grassroots innovative, autonomous and less funded movement builders. Our esteemed puppeteer, Jorge Diaz and I have been talking about this calcification in the Democratic Party and grassroots energy going there because it is funded — instead of that energy going for what you call “idealism”.
    And how movements for equity, love and inclusion have been helped with funding.
    I look forward to exploring this further. P?alante.

  • Gibran says:


    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I’m glad you are finding resonance. It’s interesting how so much funding continues to go to things that are not working, weird how it can feel “safe.” I had not thought about the way grassroots participation is being channeled towards formal political structures by this same habits of funding.

    It’s probably smart to consider that many of our funding structures and processes are themselves part of the calcifying environment.

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