Collaborate: (v) to work, one with another; cooperate, especially to produce or create something
The definition is self-explanatory. And yet, I would argue, it is the most challenging part of the Everything Matters mandate. It is also the most vital, particularly for students and recent graduates.
To those who are young, idealistic and full of passion; so often the two other tag-words of the Everything Conference (create and cultivate) sound far more appealing.
Perhaps this is because, if we are truthful, they also sound the most rewarding; particularly in terms of recognition that would be received if, and when, we are successful. This certainly fits with the culture of University. After all, it is marketed as the period in our lives during which we are to build our own platform of views; ideas that will propel us forward in our attempts to leave a mark on the world. Like the people, practices and products that we study; we all want to do something that is remembered.
But at the same time, maybe our distance from collaboration is just that; a realistic gap between desire and opportunity. We are sent different messages. Whilst being told that we are studying, exploring and discovering the most up-to-date ideas that could change both our world and our perception of it we are also (upon graduation) confronted with a market-place that tells us we are to wait at least a decade before we can really begin to put any of our ideas into some sort of influential practice. No wonder the passion to collaborate dies so young!
Do not worry, this blog-post is not a message of despair; but it is a provocation: a challenge for all of us to pursue and, if needs be, to create more opportunities for us to collaborate.
I happen to be writing whilst living and serving amongst a rural community in a mountainous jungle terrain. The other day, I saw the power of collaboration displaying its most creative and cultivating potential.
The villager elders wanted to build a new reservoir. This requires a lot of hard labour and manpower. It requires clearing away dense jungle and excavating a huge hole into the rocky mountain side. It is a near-impossible task.
Yet, the work is more than essential. It would mean cleaner, more accessible water for drinking, cooking and washing. It would mean healthier families: healthier parents who can work and healthier children who will miss less of their education. As for the wider community, water accessibility would be the first step towards developing other aspects of the village. Maintaining hygiene and sanitation would become easier. It would also be easier to begin other projects; better housing, better pathways and better, shared crops. Even generating local energy for basic lighting would become possible. The reservoir would change the entire community, creating and cultivating an entirely new village-culture. Sadly, the benefits do not make the task any less difficult.
Unexpectedly, the reservoir is taking shape before my eyes with astonishing speed, all thanks to collaboration between the elders and the village youth.
And here is the interesting thing: the village youth did not have to help, nor were they asked to. They showed up and asked to join in.
They arrived at day-break. Within thirty-minutes they had developed, and put into motion, several task-speeding processes, the result of which is seeing clearing, extraction and removal of the site. In only a few days, working in collaboration with all ages of the village they have directed their ideas, strength and enthusiasm towards making a seven foot high crater; and it is getting higher every day. Intentionally or not, they are now part of bringing the change to their community faster than originally hoped for.
In London (and in our nation), the needs of our community are different to those above and those of us who want to begin creating and cultivating sooner rather than later live in a fortunate time. The Everything Conference. Transform Groups. Everything Matters training. Social Action. They are all at our finger-tips. By being the Church we are connected with hundreds of others from a variety of backgrounds, professions, skills and ambitions, all of whom are seeking to engage transform the culture around us. Age and experience are not limiting factors!
Together, let us begin to create the opportunities to collaborate, both for ourselves and the generation of students that will quickly follow us. Let us be at the Everything Conference this Saturday; let us own its mandate; and let us seek to collaborate in uncovering more of the colours and flavours in our culture, and nation, that best reflect the Kingdom of which, whatever our age and whatever our interests and skills, we are all ambassadors of.
The Everything Conference is taking place on Saturday 17 March, 10.00-17.00 at The Mermaid Conference Centre, EC4V 3DB. For more information and to book a ticket, visit everythingconference.org