Collaboration vs. Convolution: Striking a balance!

A360 requires more collaboration and joint-decision-making than any project I have EVER worked on in my life. This is complicated enough when you are working in a single country, but magnified about 100-fold when you bring in two donors, a big consortium, different disciplines, three countries, and a lot of awesome experts with really strong opinions (we just might have a strong personality or three in the mix too ;)). When it works the things we come up with are truly breakthrough—and we have a lot of confidence in the solutions everyone agrees on. When it doesn’t work we see a lot of confusion and frustration around decision-making and paralysis in a search for consensus.  

It’s an ongoing struggle, but here are a few practical hacks we are finding helpful to keep collaboration productive:

Values matter!

  • A360 has strong governing values of mutual respect, transparent communication, caring and fun. We are nice to each other around here and it makes a huge difference—particularly when the going gets tough.

Geek Out and Tech Up!

  • Use of robust virtual communications platforms such as Slack, Asana and Zoom give geographically dispersed teams multimedia collaboration spaces almost like bulletin boards with themed conversations.
  • Companion apps make these all usable with smart phones.

Get Together!:

  • Meeting, in person, every six months or so is essential to ensure project cohesion, promote cross-country learning and exchange, and efficiently solve thorny problems.

Put up Guardrails:

  • Define the theoretical contribution of a discipline to a problem—what can they bring to the project?

Comment below to share your thoughts and tips!

By Manya Dotson, A360 Project Director