We noted in our last post that, prior to embarking on a collaborative process, it is useful to take stock of the resources available in your community that can help you collaboratively work through conflict. What are these resources? They include, of course, monetary and in-kind resources for funding a process and ensuring adequate administrative and technological support. They also include a community’s general level of civic participation, relationships among groups, and the support of government and key community leaders. Other assets less typically thought about include the level, type and ease of access to shared information within the community, existing process skills, past positive experiences in the community, a shared vision for the future, shared interests and values, a strong communal history, and governmental systems that are open and accessible. The more assets a community has to start with, the more likely it will be successful in launching a collaborative process. If your community is lacking significant assets you can still plan a sequence of actions that will help you to both build more assets and provide for some form of public engagement. What you don’t want to do is start a process that is likely to fail, creating a pattern of cynicism and low expectations that will make future collaborative efforts more difficult. Choosing where and how to start, or when to expand your collaborative efforts, will be the subject of our next post.
If you are interested in systematically assessing your community’s resilience in the face of conflict and its readiness for productive collaboration, we have developed a workbook that will help you do so. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.