Blind eye

Dear Editor:

I didn’t have to live in Pagosa Springs very long to observe that there are many motivated groups trying to move our community forward. This is a very good thing and one of the things I love most about our giving and caring community.

Although each group may be pursuing a worthy and sometimes noble goal, all too often they turn an intentional “blind eye” to what others are doing. Sometimes it is a lack of awareness and sometimes with the intent to compete. Sometimes these are private groups such as nonprofits or organizations championing causes they believe it. Often it is local governments with visions and plans at odds with citizen groups or the community at-large.

There is little collaboration here. What is collaboration? The act of working with another or others to achieve an outcome they can all agree on. Collaboration happens voluntarily between people or groups that are not required to cooperate, but see opportunity, success and synergy in doing so. They could go it alone, but choose instead to “partner” with others to achieve a greater level of success.

Not only is this often self-defeating for the community, but there is an opportunity cost. Various groups have different visions and goals that may conflict with one another, creating tension, frustration and confusion. There is also potential synergy lost—the ability to achieve more together rather than separately. The combined energy of two groups pursuing the same goal in a coordinated fashion can create a result far greater than if the groups worked independently.

The benefits of healthy collaboration and cooperation are so obvious that it makes me wonder why it’s so rare. I believe that it is because it requires us to think about things in a different way. That’s hard. We’re not good at perceiving the possible benefits of things that don’t already exist the “what if.” Also, we often tend to be suspicious of rival interests. Finally, there’s inertia. The attitude that “this is the way we’ve always done it so why change?”

Collaboration requires an act of will and must be initiated by one or more visionaries who see the value of the community — civic groups, institutions and governments working together — and promoting it.

This, first of all, takes understanding. Each group must have an understanding of what other groups are doing to even begin to understand the benefits of collaborating — the areas of mutual interest.

What else does it require? Trust and transparency. Groups have to put rivalries aside and be open about what they are trying to accomplish. To be transparent takes trust. Trust that being honest and open won’t be used by a rival group for unfair advantage.

I believe that by working together, collaborating, people can achieve extraordinary things. What will we achieve together?

Muriel Eason

This story was posted on July 25, 2013.