A Call for [More] Collaboration
by Mike Edwards
Over 180,000 people move from a rural area to a city every day. In the next four decades, one out of two people will move from the countryside to the city.
This global migration will generate challenges beyond our comprehension – challenges that need us to collaborate with others well beyond our current practices. The issues facing the urban world are simply too great for any one person or organization to resolve independently.
By nature, people of faith should demonstrate this mindset of collaboration more readily than others. Interdependence is built into the character of God and passed on in God’s creation. Can you think of anything God created that is independent rather than interdependent? From ecosystems, weather, human bodies and molecular structures to a triune God – all function interdependently.
Cities also reflect this interdependence with many interrelated, interdependent parts. Each part operates within a highly complex living system, coexisting and rarely operating autonomously.
We must recognize our interdependence so we can come alongside others, sharing ideas, people and resources in our cities.
Yet, what does this look like in practice?
I have a friend who tells the story of the churches in his city coming together many years ago to host a Billy Graham event. For a time churches put aside their own individual efforts for the sake of something larger in their city. The result? A positive and significant citywide impact.
Cooperative efforts like this should not be the exception. When we understand collaboration correctly, it becomes our posture and the normative action in the city.
No one organization can positively impact a city while operating independently.
Collaboration also extends beyond churches to public organizations such as schools, social and municipal groups, and others who are seeking the welfare of the city.
A biblical context for this is found in the book of Jeremiah. The exiles living in Babylon are admonished to pursue the good of the city: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you in exile.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
Collaboration does not mean that we lose our distinctive characteristics to work with others. In fact, the diversity of the urban world calls us to embrace our distinctives in order to be effective in a diverse city. One-size-fits-all does not work in the urban world.
So, we must differentiate ourselves while at the same time moving toward others in cooperation. As we do this, we discover common values and goals – and that we can accomplish more together than alone.
For the ReachGlobal Berlin Team, the value of collaboration leads to a specific strategic posture as we deploy the team in the city. If someone wants to have a specific focus or pursue a new idea, we first ask, “Is someone already doing this in Berlin?”
If the answer is ‘yes’ we move toward others in cooperation, strengthening the existing effort rather than reproducing what is already being done.
Does this mean we will never create new initiatives? Not at all. But when we do, it is not to compete with others or provide a better option to what already exists. We must have clear and compelling reasons for not collaborating before we act differently.
By placing team members cooperatively in various ministries and sectors of the city, we bring together ideas and mobilize resources in a far broader context than we would otherwise. This posture of the team encourages cooperation, understanding different approaches and expressing the wide diversity of strategy needed to impact a city.
We can do far more together acting interdependently than we can alone.
For more examples of how the ReachGlobal Berlin team and others are working collaboratively in the city, follow our blog.