The time is now. Cross-sector collaboration as a ‘seed’ for renewing the world.

This is a guest blog from a good friend and a fellow Partnership Broker, Michelle Halse from Living Collaborations.

“Partnering and collaboration are critical… if we are to create a more inclusive and sustainable world.”

It is not a not a lone voice making this claim.

I’d even venture to say the idea – that cross-sector collaboration is required to address the challenges facing the world – is just about mainstream.

Which is not to say we’ve all worked out how to do it.

Otto Scharmer, author of ‘Theory U’ and Co-Founder of U.lab writes regularly in the Huffington Post. This week, in “Trump, Dark Money, and Shifting Consciousness”, he observes seven ‘gifts’, or encouraging signs, currently seeding in the world. Including the rise of cross-sector collaboration linking partners from business, government and civil society.

He cites the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (ratified at the 2015 United Nations summit) as an example of such cross-sector collaboration.

This creative SDG Pyramid groups the Goals with the three divides – social, ecological and spiritual – articulated by Scharmer in Theory U.

He goes further to say “none of these goals are reachable by any organization or any sector acting alone. Achieving the intended impact will require new collaborative structures across all sectoral boundaries. The emergence of such cross-sector initiatives is one of the most remarkable sources of hope in our time.”

I agree, and the stories are worthy of our attention.

We all need a little hope.

During my recent time in Washington DC, I connected with countless other inspiring groups moving in multi-stakeholder forms to bridge divides.

  • Leaders from The National Women’s Law Center, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law inspired a packed dining room at the Pro Bono Institute Conference with stories of mobilising their access-to-justice partnerships to engage locally and nationally to counter the daily threats to minority rights in the USA.
  • Novozymes, a Danish biomedical company, shared (at Global Partnerships Week) how they have built into their organisational DNA learning from and collaborating with partners not like themselves. To help them deepen their understanding of the world where they want to have success.
    Take their work with schools in Brazil to integrate teaching of biotech and sustainability into normal class work to inspire the next generation of scientists.
    Or their work with the textile industry in Tiripur, India, to adopt enzymatic technologies (in dyes) and achieve zero liquid discharge into their rivers, helping sustain a key industry for local employment. Bridging social and ecological divides.
  • The Partnership with Native Americans, who joined us for Partnership Brokers Training works with Reservation program partners, to support self-determined sustainability and opportunity in tribal communities, who are over-represented in the homeless and food-insecure population of the USA – again, addressing all three Theory U divides.

These encounters – and Scharmer’s ‘seeds’ – inspire. Out of adversity comes innovation. New alliances are stepping into their power – power with, rather than power over.

These stories energise. To challenge and support people and organisations to be brave, remember their humanity, hold onto their dreams and work hard to sense and create the future collectively.

As Otto puts it “…the call of our time… is to realize that the future is already here. All the seeds, all the living examples, all the partners we need to pull this off are already here. But we need to attend to and connect with them, and nurture the deeper eco-systems of collaboration and co-creation.

It’s time to get serious.