Collaborative working – Go on, I Dare You!
Charlene Tait, Deputy CEO
Collaboration, when it works well, can be a powerful and effective force for change. In recent months I have been involved in a number of work streams that have affirmed my thinking in regards to the need to be a leader who works to be connected and outward facing as well as to engage in critical and reflective thinking and practice.
Our work with Children in Scotland and NAS Scotland to produce the “Not Included, not involved, not engaged” report (www.notengaged.org) has the potential to be a catalyst for change in an education system that is proving challenging for some autistic children and is leading some parents and families not only to breaking point, but to be broken time and time again.
As an organisation we have, over the last five years, developed a relationship with services in Aarhus in Denmark. This was initially facilitated by our late and much missed friend and colleague Dr. Michael McCreadie. We share knowledge, practice developments and challenges because despite differing contexts, our philosophy and ethics in relation to practice are the same.
Next month we will be hosting our 50th Anniversary conference in Glasgow on 8th and 9th November (can you add link). We are proud to be collaborating with the Participatory Autism Research Collective (PARC) Scotland to be supporting a “fringe” event designed by and for autistic people but, crucially, welcoming to all.
All of this leads me to reflect on what it takes to collaborate successfully (warning, this is not evidence based, merely my opinion):
- Know your limitations - you can’t know it all, do it all or control it all – nor should you
- Trust your intuition
- Park your agenda and develop a shared agenda
- Trust the judgement of mutual connections – it’s like matchmaking with a higher success rate!
- Say what you genuinely think and feel and be ready to hear the same from others
- Recognise that you are always a learner and sometimes the “teacher”
- Give as much as you get
There are doubtless more things to say and more sophisticated ways to say them.
I have, as I suspect, most have, been involved in tokenistic attempts to collaborate or where our shared purpose resulted in a less than shared distribution of workload , so it doesn’t always work. These experiences don’t put me off trying they serve to make me try harder because when it works it is so worth it.
I have always felt that I work for a cause and that I am part of a movement for change. It is frustrating to see and hear firsthand the inequalities that autistic people and their families face and I hope I never lose that feeling, it’s a great motivator, but I do also celebrate the minor and occasionally major triumphs that come from the persistence and collective determination of likeminded organisations, the people we support and the autistic community.
May the force be with you.