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WHO TO INCLUDE:

Depends upon the purpose and scope of the collaboration.


~ Some collaborations need to have almost unlimited membership.  Some others need to be extremely restricted.


~ It is often useful to be more inclusive and open than exclusive.  Sometimes it is possible to mix both inclusive and exclusive collaborations by the use of a general committee or council and ad-hoc or subcommittees.  


~ Restriction can be based on purpose, relationships, association, geographic, or legal restrictions such as confidentiality.


~ Early on in the process, it can be helpful to avoid inviting individuals who may be particularly disruptive, unless there is a particular reason or an especially skillful facilitator.  One reason to include someone who may be disruptive is if they are an important opinion leader who you may need to engage from the very beginning.


~ Later on in the process, after the collaboration has been established, the same person who you may have been concerned about their causing a disruption, may be able to provide a valuable and different perspective on the issue and actually help to strengthen the collaboration by bringing things to light which may be missed by others and may be required for the ultimate success of the group.  


~ Be careful when you specifically do not invite someone or a particular group because of concerns that they may be too disruptive or present an opposing point of view.  This can cause problems which could unravel or undermine the process, project, or collaboration.  In some situations you need to be prepared for them to show up on their own or request to be invited.  Unless you have a very good reason for them not to attend, it is sometimes easier to allow them to attend and be a part of the process from the beginning.  The meeting facilitator should be prepared for possible disruptions and crucial conversations which may occur.  It may also be helpful for all of the members to develop good skills around crucial conversations.  Remember that opposing points of view can create energy which can be productively harnessed and perhaps help you avoid unforeseen obstacles.  "Naysayers" CAN actually help the group to focus if the conversation is well managed.  Good Critical Thinking can add significantly to the process and improve outcomes.  If managed well, "Naysayers" can help sharpen critical thinking.  Naysayers can be a great asset and when the conversations and process are collaboratively well managed, they can become great allies.  


~ There needs to be a place in the process for all stakeholders.  It is not necessary to include all stakeholders in every meeting.  It is necessary to identify and engage all stakeholders if you want genuine lasting success.  Some exceptions may be due to legal or safety concerns, but be careful not to use that as an excuse when the exception is not truly warranted.  When there are legal or safety concerns, it may be beneficial to consult with an attorney or law enforcement.  Quite often when identifying and engaging stakeholders, it is helpful to use aspects of strategic planning through a results conference. Some stakeholders may have authority over aspects of a project.  Make sure levels of authority for everyone are clear.

Always remember: "real listening shows respect.  It creates trust.  As we listen, we not only gain understanding; we also create the environment to be understood.  And when both people understand both perspectives, instead of being on opposite sides of the table looking across at each other, we find ourselves on the same side looking at solutions together." Stephen R Covey

~ When beginning a collaboration or coalition, two or three people with a passion for the mutually agreed upon purpose (interest, subject, idea, project, or cause), should come together and brainstorm about all the people or organizations that may also have the same or similar interest.  As mentioned previously, you may want to begin with strategic planning through a results conference.  If you do not want to do something as elaborate as a results or search conference to begin with, arrange for a date, time, and place, and send letters, make phone calls, and personal visits to invite.  As you are inviting the people you have chosen, you may want to ask them if they have ideas about others who could and should be invited.  Overtime as the collaboration, coalition, or project, develops and grows, you may need to invite additional people with ideas, resources, passion, and energy to help further the collaboration, coalition, or project.  Be careful to not grow faster than you and the group is able to manage.  Sometimes businesses, organizations, and coalitions, grow faster than they are able to manage and everything implodes.

In the case of the Madison County Community Council we started with agencies, organizations, schools (including a local college), churches (faith groups), and law enforcement, with a common interest in children and youth issues.  Over time specific subcommittees were developed.  One fo these committees had a closed membership because of confidentiality.  Other committees were more open including anyone who wanted to help.  Over the years the community council grew to over 70 members, which is quite large for a fairly small community, and included youth.  Our purpose came to encompass both youth and families as well as many general community concerns.


~ Typical organizations that may be included as part of a community collaboration may include businesses, schools, colleges and universities, health care (both physical and mental), non-profit organizations, elected officials, media, law enforcement, corrections, faith based organizations, cultural and ethnic groups, parents, youth, the court system, youth services, government agencies, early learning, military, parent/teacher organizations, employment organizations and agencies.  Remember to seek out and encourage intergenerational participation.


 

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