April 06, 2022

POV: Building Collaborative Spaces

If there is one thing I have really come to understand over the years, it’s that I can’t do everything myself. Sure, sometimes it is more efficient to tackle a project by yourself, but the results may be lacking, it might take far longer than expected, and you may also end up knocking on the Burned-Out Central Door. Building alliances, having key partners, and investing in collaborations really does yield higher results.  

Let’s just take the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Like it or hate it. Received the jab or not. Facts remain that it wasn’t created in a silo. First let me state the obvious, I am not a doctor nor am I a scientist.  

Not long ago I listened to a news story (likely on KUER or KCPW), and the scientist they interviewed talked about how cool it was that within weeks of the discovery of COVID-19 the makeup of the components of the virus were shared with other scientists. Once shared, existing research confirmed that this new virus (COVID-19) was related to SARS and MERS. This engaged scientists who, for decades, had been studying SARS and MERS; they dusted off their research and started to problem solve. Months later, a vaccine was ready to be tested in the market and within a short period of time afterward, thousands of people stepped forward for clinical trials to test COVID-19 vaccines. It was described in this interview that the clinical trial period is generally the longest part of the process, taking years to gather the right data. For the COVID-19 vaccines, enough data had been gathered in months.   

All this collective buy-in aided in COVID-19 vaccines being made available in a timeframe of months instead of years. This kind of group work and collaboration has made it possible for us to see and experience the world in similar ways to our January 2020 existence.  

You might be asking, “Ok Kate, where in the world is this going”? I hear you – we are all tired of COVID but this rather complex issue that I have summed up in sentences is the heart of why it’s important to build alliances and collaborate with others where mission alignment exists and when you’re trying to move something forward. Locally we saw this happen during our most recent Utah State Legislative Session. HB 175 Protection of Animals Amendments has made it possible for pets to be included in protections for folks who are fleeing domestic violence situations.  

Just last week, I heard some sage advice about collaboration around policy issues. A UNA member expressed pride in the simple act of picking up the phone and asking a partner agency if they were interested in working together on some policy initiatives. The partner agency was interested, and they began working together. When you think about it, each of us has different skills and abilities and the stuff we know or the things we are good at just might be what someone else needs for a project they are working on. Without asking you’ll never know what possibilities might be out there. 

In our work I see a lot of cross-sector alliance building and collaboration when it comes to policy and advocacy. Because of this, I think it’s so important to make sure that every nonprofit organization has a clear idea of their advocacy and policy strategy. Having this strategy forces nonprofits to think about their stakeholders and the different ways they can engage everyone in the process. The ultimate goal is to break down the silos and create the expectation that you don't have to do this work (or anything really) by yourself. At UNA, we want you to be prepared to weather the external and internal forces that impact your mission.  

Now, as you would come to expect, UNA has a course coming up to help with this. Our Advocacy and Civic Engagement UNA Credential is the 27th and 28th of April and I HOPE* to see you there!  

*Hope is the name of our instructor and I just love being able to connect the two!  

On the subject of vaccine creation, the CDC provides scientific and accurate data on the creation of the COVID-19 vaccine and others.