Cigdem Seftalioglu is an Authentic Experience Explorer, Interactive Experience Designer and Generator of Connecting and Inspiring Content. In order to spread awareness, motivation and inspire action on AE, she organises and facilitates online community circles and collaboration sessions – especially for young people and women – with love.
Cigdem joined this month’s UnConference sessions on Collaboration and wrote this article about her reflections after the sessions. We’re delighted to publish it here and to have her as part of the Conscious Learning Tribe community.
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
– African Proverb
Collaboration. Is it essential to survive? Is it something that makes life easier and more meaningful? Is it about adopting an approach like ‘we are in this game together’?
Some years ago, I worked for a bank – the father of the corporate world. One of the main drivers of culture in the banking industry is competition. I had to think about my individual goals. I had to run for the performance. If I wanted to win, some others had to lose. I had to be political. I had to wear fancy dresses. I had to climb the career ladder if I wanted my opinions to be taken seriously. Most of the time, I had to pretend and I could not be fully myself.
Such a competitive and greed-driven culture was not suitable for me. That’s why I pivoted my direction towards collaborative cultures. Personally, I value organizational cultures that foster harmony in which everybody exists with their beauty without pretending. I value cultures where people can be themselves without having the hesitation of not being seen or heard. I value cultures where not only decisions are taken mutually; accountability is also held mutually for risks and liabilities.
How can we create such a culture? Maybe it is not as hard as we think. It starts with recognizing people’s uniqueness, their role, and weaving the web of life together. And collaboration is the key.
The dictionary definition of collaboration is ‘working together to create or achieve something’. The culture that I am longing for goes beyond solely working together:
If all can be heard without control-freak power structures and hierarchies…
If everybody has a voice in decision making…
If everybody is actively engaged in the process…
If all set their expectations transparently and mutually decide on responsibilities, roles, goals, and outcomes while working together…
…then I call this type of collaboration “authentic collaboration”.
While thinking about how to create and foster authentic types of collaboration, I came across two magnificent UnConferences this month on the theme of collaboration. They were organized by Conscious Learning Tribe, my favorite learning, unlearning, and up-learning platform. They showcased amazing examples of businesses, initiatives, communities all around the world in which collaboration is internalized organically and an integral part of the culture.
Let’s dive into some sparks of inspiration that grabbed my attention at the UnConferences.
Collaboration Between Different Disciplines
The Center for Conscious Design (CCD) is an international grassroots think tank aiming to use conscious design to alleviate complex social and urban issues. As a grassroots think tank, people from various disciplines – scientists, designers, storytellers, politicians – come together to solve problems.
Itai Palti, the founder of the CCD, gave an example of a conscious design workshop they organized in Nairobi. Their approach addresses the gaps in communication between different parties like government & public services, the private sector, and community representatives. They decrease points of friction, come up with shared performance measures and invest resources in the most effective way. To me, their approach creates a perfect environment for dialogue and authentic collaboration to spark creative thinking and innovation.
The CCD organizes fabulous events. The upcoming one – in October – is the Conscious Cities Festival 2020. Check them out. You will see that everything on their website carries a spirit of collaboration.
Collaboration at the Community Level
Aniwa is a platform to amplify the voices of the world’s most respected indigenous leaders, to help us remember how to connect with the power of the elements, the memories of the trees, the teachings of the heart.
Vivien Vilela, the co-founder of Aniwa, explained why we need to collaborate with beautiful examples from indigenous cultures. Indigenous people know that every single unit in the universe is required to function in harmony and all beings are part of the web of life. They carry the spirit of reciprocity with nature, thus living in peace with all.
Indigenous cultures generally adopt servant leadership. Leaders serve their community rather than being a single decision-making authority. Vivien talked about a case where they visited the tribe for a festival and saw a community leader cleaning toilets, something very hard for us to even imagine within our communities.
Everyone in indigenous communities has a role. There are no superior or inferior roles. As long as what needs to be done is done, the community can sustain itself, so all work is valuable. In case of conflict, they sit together, discuss the issue, gather perspectives of all, and find the middle ground without judging right and wrong. They act with a sense of community and connection.
In my opinion, indigenous culture is so rooted in collaboration that it became the backbone of their culture and ancient wisdom. I am looking forward to learning from wisdom keepers of ancient traditions about how to live collaboratively on the Aniwa Platform.
Collaboration at the Society Level
Hatzalah Volunteer Ambulance Corps is working to save people’s lives in emergency times. Let’s imagine an emergency situation like a traffic accident or somebody having a heart attack. We call for an ambulance, right? The speed at which the ambulance reaches the scene has critical importance. Sometimes, the ambulance unfortunately reaches the scene very late, resulting in loss of life or people left with serious damage because of the late intervention.
Hatzalah has a very innovative model to provide emergency treatment and transportation. They have a civilian army of volunteers who are trained to provide advanced life support. In case of emergency, they dispatch volunteers to the scene in Emergency Ambulance Service Vehicles that are equipped with life-saving medical equipment. And their response time is legendary – 2 to 4 mins – which is absolutely precious when saving lives.
Laurence Sarah Ainouz, the founder of Hatzalah, said that they give people training, tools and platforms to do good. Then, the magic happens through people. As the human species, I strongly believe that we all have an internal motivation for contributing to the well-being of others, and Hatzalah’s model is a brilliant example of bringing such motivation of human beings to the surface.
Volunteers collaborate with each other at the scene towards a shared goal: to save lives. They hold mutual accountability for the risks taken on the spot. As a community, they share their learnings with each other and improve the system together.
Hatzalah organizations are operating in many places from New York to Mexico City, London to Melbourne. Such widespread expansion of the organization – which is up and running thanks to volunteers – could only be possible through a collaborative culture.
The examples I heard at UnConferences are very inspiring. They show me a different world, a different community, a different workplace is possible. They give me hope and courage to design and create my life through pieces of collaboration by showing up my true self. And I hope this little piece of writing also evokes your excitement and encourages you to show your real self, to offer your gifts and resources in any setting while working with others to create something.
How to connect with Cigdem