The Wisdom of Many
"It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin
This quote from Charles Darwin puts the importance of collaboration into its ultimate perspective: human beings exist as we do today, through eons of evolution and in absolute dominance of the planet, because we have learned to work together to develop transformative ideas and technologies. Our interdependence is the source of our success.
That's the big picture. But there are a few specific reasons that we put a high value on collaboration in our methodology.
We uphold participation and inclusion as a value. We both work with organizations that address poverty and homelessness, and in those circles there is a powerful slogan: "Nothing about us without us." People of lived experience want a seat at the tables where the policies that impact them are developed. We believe they have a right to be there, and that this principle applies to other issues too. The concept of self-determination and participatory democracy are key to who we are as a nation and culture, but many of our structures are only democratic in very shallow ways.
We want the best solutions. We're pretty smart people, but we don't know everything. Nobody does. But everyone knows something, and our strength is in drawing out the right knowledge to frame, assess, and solve the given problem. A group of people working together can accomplish more, with greater insight, than an individual. And often the most innovative ideas come when different perspectives and ideas collide in ways that nobody would have thought to try on their own.
We want complete solutions. We help communities deal with complex problems that affect them all. Because everyone is affected differently by a problem, everyone has something unique to offer from their own perspective. None of us see a problem in its totality, and when perspectives are left out of the problem solving process the result is often a half-measure that only helps those who were privileged enough to be part of that conversation. And if those perspectives were left out of the process, we wouldn't even know we'd failed to solve the problem. There are no perfect solutions for complex problems, but we get much further when we include as many perspectives as possible.
We want lasting solutions. When diverse perspectives are taken into account, it gives us a greater understanding of the problem itself, which allows us to pivot and adapt to new changes as they occur. This is much harder to do when a solution is based on a shallow or incomplete understanding of the problem.
We want solutions we can all believe in. Plenty of good ideas never get implemented because they lack buy-in. Communities are much more than a bunch of people who live in the same town; it is our town or group or organization not just because we live or work there, but because we have a sense of ownership. Often, that means that we won't appreciate the merit of an idea if we've had no hand in producing it. A perfect solution, handed down from on high, is often less effective than an imperfect solution that comes from, and with the support of, the people it impacts most.
“Many of us are more capable than some of us, but none of us is as capable as all of us.” - Tom Wilson