Collaboration Helping the Trails in Patagonia Survive

May 10, 2010

Living in Patagonia, I have come to realize the magnitude of beauty that exists in the far reaches of South America. Sometimes the views are so awe-inspiring and lovely that it brings tears to my eyes.

So, when I found out about a collaborative effort that helped the access into the inspiring earthly jewels of southern Patagonia, I was excited to share the story of their efforts. Not to mention, the scenery alone is worth the four minutes of time…

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Global Help in Creating Logos and Graphics

March 29, 2010

I thought I would pass on the link to an intriguing website, Crowd Spring, that I came across while doing some research about creating graphic designs for a business I am working on.

The site is a forward-thinking, collaborative effort of bringing together graphic designers, freelance writers, and the people that need their help. It works in an interesting fashion. First, you post a project with a budget and deadline included, if you like. Then you sit back and watch the worldwide idea tank go to work by people contributing ideas related to your proposal. After different brainstorming designs and wordsmith work has come across your desk (the site says that it averages 100 entries per project), you choose the one that fits your needs and desires best.

An interesting idea that is another example of the business world shifting…


Cooperation Teaching Guide for Kids

January 18, 2010

As Marty Frost mentioned in his interview, “kind” collaboration is a key factor in a cooperative succeeding.

This is true for any type of group effort.

I remember back to my days in elementary school. The basic ideas of working together where attempted. We were put into groups and asked to figure out problems in a friendly manner. One of my favorite exercises was trying to describe a picture to a blindfolded group member using only certain words. The quickest group to expedite the verbal communication received the coveted prize of a candy bar.

Well, the science of collaboration has developed since the 80s. Which is a fabulous thing, in my opinion, because in all seriousness, our world will not advance if our children do not learn and develop what we already know.

One organization that is working hard on helping youngsters be positive members of a healthy planet is Good Character.com. They have created a series of great educational plans to help kids work together. The colors are catchy. The delivery fun. The message vital.

I applaud them in their efforts and easy-to-follow lessons to share basic knowledge that some adults are still lacking…treat others the way you would want to be treated…truly listen to what others are saying…show appreciation towards others and their helpful acts.

as well as the many others that we should activate in our daily lives…

like enjoying each other’s company.


Hi-Tec Working with Customers to Develop Product Focus Group

January 13, 2010

In an innovative and collaborative business thought process, Hi-Tec, an outdoor clothing company, is going to the source for help…their customer. It seems to me, more and more companies are reaching out to their client base. We saw it with Doritos. I wonder what other major corporations will soon be looking toward those that buy their products for marketing ideas?

Here is the link to apply for the Hi-Tec Focus Group.

I will be interested to see how this pans out…if someone is considering going would they be interested in sharing their experiences?


Communication Tools for Global Collaboration

January 11, 2010

It was 1990. I was 17, 5,000 miles away from home and desperately wishing I could easily communicate with my friends and family. But there were only two options: novel-length letters or POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). Fast forward to the 21st century and keeping in contact has become a breeze no matter where your location on the planet.

With the advancements of technology, the plethora of internet cafes, handy computer notebooks, and the various communication choices available, it’s as easy as a mere click of the mouse to have lengthy conversations—even meetings—no matter where you happen to be.

Continue reading to learn the best ways to stay in touch worldwide…

Moving beyond POTS

In the 20th century a land line telephone was the quickest and most expensive way to say hi. Still among the speediest way of verbal interaction, the phone has taken leaps and bounds into being a cost-effective means of communication.

The big step towards cheap, long distance telephone service was the development of VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). VoIP is the understanding that sound bites travel through high speed internet connections the same way an email does, creating a clear telephone connection. The lightening fast exchange of information supports conversations with any other type of phone, whether or not it is a POTS. The only requirement is for your phone or computer to be connected to WiFi or a data port.

Originally brainstormed in 1973 with the conception of the first computer network, VoIP steadily moved towards easy consumer use. By the mid 90s VoIP had infiltrated the masses by means of the VocalTec Internet Phone which included voice mail and caller ID. The drawback was that it was only compatible with other VocalTec users. By 2004 the technology had advanced enough to create two different offspring of the original VocalTec concept. The first is an analog telephone adapter, a device that connects with an internet broadband connection, and a phone jack. Companies offering this system include Vonage and Comcast.

The other orientation is a program that is easily downloaded to any computer. Companies such as Skype and Gizmo5 have taken advantage of VoIP technology by creating a program that supports various forms of communication once downloaded to a PC or Mac. With either business you receive a phone number from your place of choice; Skype offers 21 country options, Gizmo5 — 60. It remains your personal number for the length of account activity. For example, my Skype phone number is based in Lake Tahoe, California yet I live in Bariloche, Argentina. People calling from the States often do not realize that the Californian number they called is ringing 7000 miles away. A personal IM id, voice mail and Instant Messenger are also included with the private phone number.

There are two major differences between companies like Skype and Gizmo5 and Comcast and Vonage. Skype, as well as Gizmo5, work on closed source software meaning that they are run by independent programs that can be downloaded to any computer. They also have compatibility with cell phones; Skype has its own cell phone (Skypephone) and Gizmo5 works with your mobile phone. Comcast and Vonage, on the other hand, work off of a high speed internet connection via a phone adapter plugged into a router. Also, Comcast and Vonage are only applicable to residents of the United States, Canada and the UK.

Despite variations in companies, majority of people living abroad use either Skype or Vonage. Sergio, a member of Buenos Aires Expat Forum, expresses his findings, “Vonage is fantastic. You can choose any area code and speak through a phone, just as though you are in the US. For $30 USD a month you have unlimited calls to the US, Canada, Puerto Rico plus unlimited fixed phone calls to the UK, Eire, Spain, Italy and France (no charge for calls to cell phones in North America but to Europe there is a charge – not to fixed phones). It’s an incredible service that really reduces distances.”

Others find that Skype is their mode of choice. Another associate of the forum, Allcraz, uses Skype. “I call through the internet using Skype. I can call land lines and cell phones anywhere for a small fee or talk computer to computer for free.” For the world traveler Skype or Gizmo5 may offer more flexibility. Skype offers instant messaging, video conferencing, call forwarding and cheaper prices for a personal phone number and long distance coverage. Gizmo5 additionally offers compatibility with other VoIP operations, a free built in recording system, access to LiveJournal (a virtual internet community where you can create a blog, journal or diary), and is recognizable (unlike other companies) as the correct phone number on some inbound United States caller-ids.

In addition to VoIP there is also the service of renting a cell phone that is capable of global service. Global Phone Works offers both cell and satellite phones at competitive prices. The company will ship the phone, chargers, a converter, and business cards with the cell number to your address before travel departure date. They have programs for short term trips and a yearly contract for longer stays.

For those that are not computer literate there are always old fashioned phone cards. These handy cards resembling a credit card are sold around the world. Some companies sell minutes that are added to a re-useable card, others are disposable with a pre-determined amount of time. The cards are sold at most markets and are used at any public phone operation. It is important to check usage fees due to extra costs being applied with certain plans and companies. If you want to buy phone cards before departing for your travel destination, check out speedpin.com. You can research prices for international calls as well as purchase cards with this online service. They are 100% guaranteed throughout the world.

The Internet

The increasing feasibility of real-time communication would not be possible without the internet. Luckily for today’s traveler internet cafés and WiFi hot spots are becoming a common occurrence. Quality computer notebooks have hit prices below US$500 making it more financially feasible to own one.

“For me, the laptop and reliable connection to the internet is what makes living abroad do-able,” says three-year United States expat, Jamie Schectman. “I live in Patagonia in the middle of a national park and run three different international businesses from my PC. It’s pretty amazing.”

Easy access to the internet has basically abolished the need for mailing letters. In its wake is gratuitous virtual mail service. Web based companies such as Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail offer free personal email accounts. These accounts are accessible from any computer or internet compatible cell phone or blackberry. Some programs like Gmail can act as a base station for other additional email programs. This works well if you only want to correspond from one account, but would like to send using different addresses.

Another way to reach the masses is writing a blog. A blog has different services. One is using it as a virtual post card. It can be used as a basic diary, helping your loved ones know your travel story. The only difference being that your readers can respond to your letters instantly. Another is the sharing of information; creating a place for people to learn about a unique aspect to your life abroad. My husband and I write a blog on our lives in Patagonia, http://www.livinginpatagonia.com. Most of our readers return because of our ability to keep them updated on news and happenings in Bariloche (a notoriously difficult area to find reliable information about). In addition to being a good way to stay in contact, it is also a way to earn a few extra dollars with Google Ad Sense and Amazon ad programs. Websites such as blogabroad.com, blogspirit.com, diino.com, squarespace.com, wordpress.com, to name a few, offer easy-to-follow programs to create an experience-sharing blog.

Another great way of communicating via internet is Instant Messaging or IM. IM is a real-time communication tool to speak to others, whether two people or more, via an internet connection. There are various sites that offer IM. Companies such as Skype (the largest IM provider other than the Chinese customer-majority company QQ) offer programs, in addition to a personal phone number. Also, for increased security, other private users have to ask permission to be a part of your network before they are able to chat with you. Other companies, such AIM, Jabber, Yahoo! Messenger, ebuddy, Windows Live Messenger, Gmail Chat, as well as others, have made the instant messaging phenomenon a standard in computer communication. It is as easy as signing up for the chosen system; all which are free of charge. The only necessary component is that the person or persons that you wish to communicate with are also a member of said company.

There are various options for communicating, but what do you do if you are in an area that does not have cyber cafés or WiFi? That is where portable satellite equipment comes in. Portable satellite systems are compact, metal boxes (about the size of a laptop) that create a high speed internet connection despite your location. BGAN Store sells three different models of satellites that offer superior bandwidth, the exchange of large files, as well as video and audio connections. The satellites are around US$2400, plus a monthly fee, and range from two to seven pounds. Their small size makes traveling with them a breeze. The set up is also minimal.

Fax

The issue of sending or receiving a fax is still a problem with VoIP programs because of the internet code language being different than fax transmissions. There is an internet option that allows you to exchange faxes via computer, Efax. The only additional piece of machinery needed is a scanner. With Efax you receive a personal fax number for a monthly fee of US$12.95. There is also a feature that creates a digital signature, taking away the need to print, scan and sign documents.

Snail Mail

There are times when snail mail is needed. It is important to have a safe place in your home country that will receive and store mail for you. It is also nice for registering and ordering items while abroad. Private mail box companies, such as Mail Box, etc., offer this service for a nominal monthly or yearly fee. The company will give you a regular street address and private mail box number. With prior arrangements made, the chosen business can email when an important document has arrived, send accumulated mail to your address abroad, or package mail for friends or family coming to visit. This is especially useful for receiving occasional online purchases that cannot be shipped internationally.

For those creating a global collaboration, the communication options of today makes the process much easier. It truly is a small world. Thanks to technology, keeping in touch is just as easy whether close or far. And for those that are living abroad, it’s nice to know that loved ones are no farther than the push of a button; a simplicity that is important for both the person venturing out into the world and those left behind.


Marty Frost, Founder of Canadian Co-op Development Company, Devco, Talks Cooperatives

January 8, 2010

Activating a dream business idea can be a bit intimidating. It takes a lot of belief in self, perseverance and tenacity.

This is no different with a cooperative, except that there are more personalities involved (which can be a great asset).

Well, for those living in British Columbia, Canada, there is another helping hand. Enter Devco. A workers co-op developed to assist those thinking about creating a cooperative idea, groups that have already moved forward, and established co-ops, Devco is a one-stop shop. Everything from offering assistance with the business plan to providing organizational training to build group capacity for co-op implementation and management is under the Devco roof.

One of the founders, Marty Frost, sat down with me (virtually that is) and let me pick his brain about collaboration.

Marty at the helm

Growing up in a small farming community, Marty was introduced to the collaborative mindset at an early age. This unknowingly gave him the backbone of what later become a lifetime career. His inspiring intelligence about the art of working together for the community-good and load of experience, ideas, and interesting information makes him, in my opinion, a powerful asset to global collaboration.

Not to mention, his enthusiasm is contagious. It confirms to me that working together truly is the wave of the future.

Here’s what he had to say…

EoC: What is your background with cooperatives?

MF: Although I served as a director on the credit union in Kentville, Nova Scotia before moving to the west coast, most of my co-op activity took place after my family moved to British Columbia in 1978.

At that time in Vancouver there was a thriving and active “new” co-op community, and joining that community felt like coming home – no small claim for a boy from the Maritimes!

By the end of the first week, I was a member of the food co-op and the local credit union. In March 1979 I went to work for a workers’ co-op, where I stayed as a member-worker for 17 years. In 1983 I was a founding member of my housing co-op, where I stayed for 13 years, and in 1996 with some colleagues founded Devco, a workers’ cooperative of co-op development and training consultants. Along the way I got involved in the greater co-op movement both provincially and nationally, and was even privileged to do some international work in Indonesia, China and Mongolia.

EoC: Were you cooperative as a child growing up?

MF: Of course, I was a model of cooperation!! No, seriously, I was the only boy in a fairly traditional farming family in Prince Edward Island. With four sisters, I was pretty much spoiled by the attention. It was also a pretty basic farm, and there were real imperatives driving the work and so on.

So, if I didn’t want to do the barn chores, it wasn’t just a case of my dad getting upset, it was a case of the cows and horses not getting milked, fed and watered. If the wood didn’t get cut and split, we didn’t have enough wood to heat the house in the winter.

Not a lot of room for rebellion or lack of cooperation there!

In our community, too, the local farmers did a lot of stuff together. Usually when it was time to cut the hay, all the farmers would just sort of start at one end of the road, and take in the hay from all the farms. Lots of farmers didn’t have all the equipment they needed, but that wasn’t a problem, since another of the farmers would just bring his along. My family owned (along with another family a couple of miles away) the first hay baler on our road, and the first mechanical hay rake. That was a bit of a boon to the whole group of farmers. Same thing when it was time to cut the firewood. Our tractor usually drove the sawmill for everyone.

I doubt any of us saw it as “cooperation”, it was just the way things got done.

EoC: What role do you feel collaboration plays in cooperatives?

MF: Collaboration, in our terms cooperation, is at the heart of the co-op system.

A co-op does not come into being unless a number of people agree to collaborate under a set of common principles and agreements to meet a defined common need. Co-ops themselves collaborate in federations and through business arrangements with one another, again to address common needs. All co-ops in the world are organized on the same set of 7 co-op principles, or values. Among these are a commitment to equal democratic control by all members, and a commitment to collaboration with other co-operatives.

EoC: In what ways are you seeing Canadian cooperatives incorporating collaborative aspects to their business models?

MF: The Canadian cooperative system is a tiered system. At the top (or the bottom, depending on your point of view) of the system are the individual co-ops. Each of these is a collaboration of members, as I described above, committed to the co-op values, and agreeing to work together to meet a common need, based on equality and democratic process.

From time to time a number of these co-ops will get together to form a federation of co-ops with similar structures, and again with a common need, which the federation is designed to meet. These federations of co-ops have banded together to form the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA), again, democratically controlled, and directed by its members, to meet needs beyond the scope of the individual federations. The francophone co-ops in Canada have a similar apex organization, called the Conseil Canadien des Cooperatives et de Mutualite (CCCM). Historically the two worked somewhat separately, but for the past 10 years or so have worked more and more closely, collaborating on their government relations and sector strategies and so on, to the strengthening of both!

Co-ops work together on a market level as well. A good example would be the co-op stores of Co-op Atlantic carrying JustUs coffee products. JustUs is a workers’ co-op in Nova Scotia. Cooperators Insurance Group, the largest mutual insurance company in Canada is 100% owned by cooperatives. They maintain two funds of $500 thousand each, one is given out as grants for the formation of new cooperatives, the other for grants to community development projects.

EoC: Do you feel with 20-somethings entering the job world, with their extensive knowledge of technology, texting, instant information exchange and a broader mindset of collaboration, that this will have an impact on cooperatives?

MF: I hope so.

Back in the 70’s, that I describe above, it was the 20-somethings who created all that stir in Vancouver. And when I look around now, I feel safe in saying that it was us, the 20-somethings using the co-op model, that started the natural foods industry in Canada, now a multi-billion dollar industry. The credit union we started back then is still alive and thriving, with almost $50 million in assets! The manager is one of the 20-somethings that started it.

The technology revolution is a system of tools, and yes, I think that they give us power that we’ve never had before to communicate and mobilize people. At the core, though, there has to be a set of values that drives and steers that power.

Does that exist among 20-somethings today? And if so, is it a positive set of values?

I do some reading (and writing) about the concept of social capital – the sort of underlying set of activities that people do together that gives a community cohesion, and with that a certain strength. The thing is that it has a bright side, as seen in countless positive community based initiatives (including the people who started all those co-ops back in the ‘70s) and a dark side (like Hell’s Angels, for example, or the gangs that all but own some of our communities).

All of these have strong social capital at their core, but different values driving them.

So, what we have now is huge technological capital. How will it manifest itself? That will depend on the values of the people who choose to use it. Right now the dominant social forces in North America are not too positive – accumulation of personal wealth, degradation of the planets ecology, a fortress mentality with respect to social change.

20-somethings first have to decide if this is what they buy into. If they do, I am pessimistic about the future my grandchildren will inherit. If they choose to become agents of change, they can change the world.

Back in the ‘60s we stopped a war, against the will of the government of the US!! What can we do today?

I think anything we set our minds to.

Within that, cooperatives continue to provide a viable constructive economic model, which is one of the needed components to global change.

EoC: Are Canadian cooperatives collaborating at all with other global cooperatives?

MF: Yes, we are.

CCA is one of the primary delivery agents for CIDA projects, the Canadian government’s external economic development agency.

Why?

Because in the parts of the world that they serve the co-op model has been found to be the most effective model for sustainable socio-economic development. CCA is also a member of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), the world-wide federation of co-ops. My own federation, the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation (CWCF), is a member of CICOPA, the world federation of worker co-ops, as well as a member of CCA and CCCM (we’re a bilingual organization).

EoC: How has technology assisted the cooperative business model, if at all?

MF: I think mostly through communication options.

My federation (CWCF) began a couple of years ago using voice-over-internet for board meetings and committee meetings. This enabled us to have 4 meetings a year, which did a lot for the board’s ability to support management in moving our programs forward.

At our AGM recently held in New Brunswick, we had video-voice links first with Elizabeth May, the leader of the Canadian Green Party, speaking from British Columbia, and with Bruno Roelants, president of CICOPA, mentioned above, speaking from Germany. In each case the medium was sufficient to enable our members, in a general meeting, to ask questions of the speakers and have them respond.

Last year, the youth program of the British Columbia Co-operative Association was able to convene a meeting of young cooperators from Argentina, Japan, the US, and parts of Canada into a first-ever common “table” to share their experiences and challenges.

EoC: What do you feel is the most fundamental move for a group of people trying to collaborate and create a cooperative?

MF: Have the people sit down and establish what their common goal is. Then look at the statement of co-op principles and see to what extent people respect the values at the core of these, and are ready to subscribe to them.

The co-op values contain some pretty revolutionary stuff, and anyone who has the conventional North American vision of starting a business, operating it for a few years, then selling it for millions and retiring on the profits is in for a shock.

Co-ops are a business model designed to provide a common service to people who need it.

While it will contribute to a member’s wealth by providing them with employment, or expanding their opportunities to market a product, or do value addition on their products, or reducing the cost of part of their lives, a person’s share does not necessarily increase in value as the years go on and the business grows.

Co-ops are made to serve people, not capital. That runs kind of counter to the capitalist ideal, and some people are a bit shocked when they find this out.

EoC: What is the current state of cooperatives in Canada?

MF: I think we’re in good shape.

Last year when the economic crisis hit, while billions of dollars were lost from stock market investment, government investment and so on, the credit unions and co-ops just sailed along pretty much as always. That’s primarily because the bulk of their capital is invested locally and regionally, not in speculative markets.

I think that the main challenge co-ops face in Canada is attracting the 20-somethings you mentioned above. All organizations need renewal, need to bring in younger people, and co-ops face that challenge just like every other organization. That means that we have to remain relevant to younger people’s lives, or we calcify. Dare I say that this may have been one of the factors leading to the demise about 20 years ago, of some of the largest co-operatives in Canada. Boards and management had spent far too much time doing business as usual and emulating their competitors in the market, rather than building on their strengths, which was in their members.

It’s great to see that the co-ops that sprung up to fill the niches are responding to that challenge, and are seeing good success, both at democratic and business levels.

EoC: What is your advice for working with different personalities and staying true to the mission statement of the co-op?

MF: I think that people in general if they want to be involved in the co-op have to subscribe in one way or another to the mission of the co-op. Why else would they be a member, other than that they want to promote its purpose and move it forward?

The piece of that which is very important is that they have had input into the development of that mission.

I believe that this is one of the main cohesive elements in any co-op, the members have had the opportunity to provide input into the overall mission and vision to which the co-op holds itself accountable. Often members will not respond to requests for such input, but I believe they must be given the opportunity. Even really large co-ops like Mountain Equipment Equipment here in Canada (about 3 million members) provides an opportunity for any member to provide input into its strategic planning, and to run for the board of directors.

So, my advice is to keep your members informed and involved. Even if the co-op falls prey to disruptive dissent, a well-informed and involved membership will not be swayed from a mission and direction in whose creation they feel they were involved. Your members must be given access to input into the creation of the mission statement, the vision, and the strategic plans. This is the only way to build a strong membership, hence a strong co-op. Leadership will come from the board of directors, of course, but the membership must have the opportunity to be part of the discussion (as well as part of the board that provides the leadership).

EoC: Where do you see the future of cooperatives going in the future?

MF: That remains to be seen.

I see huge challenges ahead in transforming economies as our political leadership is forced, kicking and screaming, into a very challenging world of repeated ecological disasters and crises, and further economic “crises” as they refuse to recognize the need for fundamental change.

Can co-ops become agents of positive change?

I think the capacity is there. There is real strength in local/regional ownership and the stability that brings to capital. Co-ops show historically that they respond to change and handle very successfully economic and technological shifts.

First the motivation has to be there. I see in my own view-screen a number of examples where co-ops are leading us into the new economy, a much greener economy.

Will we ever constitute the dominant economic model in the world? Probably not.

Will we be relevant to larger numbers of people? I think so. And that may, in fact, lead us to the kind of sea-change that’s needed.

EoC: What is your favorite Co-op story?

MF: I have a hundred favourite personal co-op stories, from sitting on the Mongolian steppe in July sipping Airag (fermented mares’ milk) with local co-op members, to spending winter solstice in the Yukon with a salmon fishers’ co-op, where the sun got up after 11:00 AM and went down about 2:00 PM, to waking to a cock crowing in the Mondragon region of Spain at the co-op training institute and looking out the window to see about 20 hot air balloons taking off from a facing hillside.

My favourite co-op story might be the Peace Energy Co-op, where a group of community activists have set up their first wind turbine (7.5 megawatts, I believe) on what will ultimately be a 50 megawatt wind farm in Dawson Creek, BC. Over 1,500 residents of the Peace River Region are members of the co-op, and they are producing truly locally-owned electricity.

Their next project will be a common heating system that will serve about 200 homes in Dawson Creek, utilizing an unused community swimming pool as their heat reservoir.

EoC: What makes a really successful Co-op?

MF: The commitment of the members.

Members have to be committed to buying shares in the co-op, and participating in the democratic aspects of the co-op — the general meetings, serving on the board of directors and committees and so on — but most importantly they have to be committed to using the services of the co-op.

Canada’s most positive success story may be Mountain Equipment Co-op, which started in the 1970s and is now huge, with stores in virtually every province and about 3 million members. The reason they have been so successful is that they serve the needs of their members. They listen to what the members say, and respond to that. So, the members come back in droves, and keep on buying from the co-op.

EoC: What is your favorite aspect about working together?

MF: Aside from the mutual support, the excitement of collectively generating ideas and implementing them and so on, and just the straight out fun of it all, I’ve found, through my years working in co-ops, that decisions made collectively are always (a word I don’t often use) better decisions that those made by an individual.

That’s not to say I’m an advocate of having a group of people sitting around the co-op bakery deciding how much to charge for the apple turnovers, but an effective decision making process that allows for and integrates the opinions of a wide range of involved people.

This will always, I think, lead to a better decision.

I believe that’s why co-ops have been shown to respond to change more easily, be more innovative, more creative, retain workers longer and develop their skills further than other forms of business organization that don’t have that built into their structures.

Thank you Marty for taking the time to discuss collaboration. – EoC


5 Collaboration Tools to Activate in 2010

January 4, 2010

As the first days of 2010 quickly slide by, it is hard to believe that we are already ten years into the new millennium. It just seems like yesterday when my husband and I were riding up the 20-person funitel lift at Squaw Valley, in Lake Tahoe, for the count down. Some of our friends thought we were crazy for being anywhere near a mechanical device for fear of the Y2K computer scare. It’s a shared joke now.

For me, 2009 was amazingly inspirational and trying at the same time. Much was learned. Some of the biggest lessons had to do with collaboration. So, in light of the first decade of the 2000 millennium winding itself down and a fresh way to communicate the time period (twenty – ten), I thought it would be only fitting if I share five of my favorite cooperation tools…

1. Laying the foundation… In the beginning of a project it is important to establish three aspects of the business that will be created. Writing out the Mission Statement, Code of Ethics and Core Values is a positive step in avoiding confusion later. It also helps everyone that is involved be accountable for their role and actions in the organization.

2. Have open communication that supports growth… a collaboration is a group effort. A fantastic part about working together is the different ideas that will be presented by the various personalities involved. In so saying, it is then a vital aspect of collaboration that members voice concerns, ideas and opinions…as long as it is done in a respectful manner that inspires positive productivity. Complaining just to complain or belittling someone’s thoughts is not only a waste of time, but it also slows done the voice of inspiration. Constructive criticism brings greatness.

3. Take advantage of today’s technology… It is so amazing the price, efficiency and easy-ability of keeping in touch now-a-days. Working together no longer requires living in the same town, huge phone bills, or the loss of trees for volumes worth of paperwork. Technology truly is a gift to global collaboration.

4. Work from a values-based business perspective… If you work from a place of good, people are drawn to your efforts. A great example of this is Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Giving should be a part of all businesses created, because, really, if it wasn’t for the people–whether client or associate–a company would be nothing.

5. Include environmental thinking… The more people that I collaborate with, the more environmental-friendly personalities I come in contact with. It is truly inspirational. And it reminds me that it is not too expensive, out there or unrealistic to create businesses that are completely and totally green. In fact, collaboration assists us in helping Mother Earth. Our collective genius as a globe has the solutions. The great part of working together is that we as a group can change those aspects of life that must evolve. We can hold ourselves accountable in not only how we treat each other, but also in how we protect the planet.

May we move into this new decade with the ability to advance our thinking and activate the lessons from the past.


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