Common Ground

common groundI’ve been fortunate this week to participate in meetings with Jay Connor, Executive Director of the Collaboratory for Community Support. This organization is dedicated to helping communities break down silos and work together towards positive outcomes.

He uses a quotation from movie director Frances Ford Coppola to discuss the need for collaboration in community initiatives. When asked what the difference between making a bad movie and making a good movie was, Coppola answered: “getting everyone to make the same movie.” In other words, nonprofits must work to get focused on and invested in shared visions for positive outcomes in a much deeper way than we have in the past.

In some ways, Nebraska Appleseed has helped shape that vision for our state. A good example is the way in which we have helped to increase opportunities for training in Unemployment Insurance: now the “safety net” system of unemployment benefits can better contribute to the vision of a healthy workforce.

It strikes me that this work is more important than ever. As our state faces a tight budget year, we are going to need to be more united and strategic than ever. Other communities are thinking this way: for example nonprofits affiliated with the “Think Twice Before you Slice” campaign in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland are looking for efficiencies, strategies, and ways to make choices that are smart and protect the most vulnerable in difficult times.

We, as a human services community, are legitimately frustrated with the “siloed” nature of our work. Whether we work in job training or health care or education, we see ways in which our systems could be better aligned. Perhaps the budget crunch is just the catalyst we need to use our thinking about systems to better identify issues to be resolved, to mobilize our frustration into action, and to look for answers to some hard questions: How can we realign our existing resources to better serve our clients? What would things look like if we turned the volume down on the discussion of funding streams and political interests and turned the volume up to better hear the voices articulating individual and community needs?

One of Nebraska Appleseed’s core values is building common ground. As for me, I have a renewed commitment to this central value as I begin to think about the next budget cycle and beyond. I hope you’ll begin to look for “common ground” visions as well.

And in that vein, I wonder: What collaborations, efficiencies, and opportunities do you see among administrative agencies, nonprofits, and other community stakeholders? The time just might be now to bring those ideas to the forefront!

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