The Path to Collaboration Station
We’re not just celebrating our 10th Anniversary as Campus for Communities of the Future with cake. Instead we’re at a very new, and slightly scary beginning that evolved as we supported and learned from individuals, organizations, businesses, neighbourhoods, and communities as they strengthened their leadership and organizational capacity for complexity. It is also the result of a sometimes messy and vast pool of resources and learning that was often the result of standing on the shoulders of some amazing and often unsung change agents across the country and now beyond
As the Founder of what until now has been known as a social enterprise called the Campus for Communities of the Future, it seems we spent many years searching for a place that was a fit for individuals and organizations who cared deeply about making a difference and were willing and courageous enough to embrace change to make it happen.
While it’s been hard work and a long, and often challenging, path, we’re finally at a place where we are finding it best to describe what we do as multisector collaboration. We’re doing it under the umbrella of a new federally incorporated non-profit organization called Collaboration Station with an incredible Board of Directors.
Why a Rebrand as Collaboration Station?
In Canada, as well as in most other countries, our economy is comprised of three sectors: (1) the public or government sector, (2) the private or business sector, and (3) the social or nonprofit sector. Now understanding myself more clearly as a generalist, I ended up working with, and across, all three sectors for many years, working with others to seek solutions to complex issues in our communities.
As a result, the path that led first to the Campus for Communities and ultimately to the Collaboration Station was not only a long and winding one, it was one where the required track was often laid as the train was rolling.
Along the way, we also realized that our silo-based systems were often a barrier to addressing increasingly complex community issues. We needed to do more to amplify the innovative leadership and approaches that would multiple, mobilize, and maximize impact. The challenges were also about the innovation required for a big dream that needed to incorporate elements that were relevant to all three sectors, each of which had a very different measuring stick for success.
Typically, the business sector is more apt to measure their success in terms of economic impact, whereas for nonprofits and governments, success is about being able to successfully address social issues and public good. In other words, we’ve often had to stack up money versus humanity and compassion because only a small percentage of the three traditional sectors were designed to integrate both the fundamentals of business with a social or environmental mission. Of course, we need both. And yet, it seems having three sectors has meant we’ve also separated the three with a very clear dividing line. Additionally, that’s also meant we’ve often excluded citizens and/or those we serve.
For years that meant the Campus for Communities of the Future struggled to find an infrastructure that addressed the need for both economic impact and social innovation. Initially we set up as a for profit social enterprise. However our partnerships with others has resulted in evolving to become a national non-profit organization and rebranding as the Collaboration Station.
Multisector Collaboration as a Solution?
Despite the long and winding road, it’s exciting to know that we are part of an an emerging new sector that serves as an umbrella for those of us doing this kind of work. While we’re referring to it as being multisector, its also referred to as the the Fourth Sector (see this article by the World Economic Forum). It is emerging as one that combines the market-based approaches of the private sector with the social and environmental priorities of the government and non-profit sectors in order to address pressing, often complex challenges.
Truth be told, it was somewhat of an epiphany because the article didn’t negate the importance of the other three sectors or economies – meaning the public or government sector, the private or business sector, and the nonprofit or social sector. Instead, the World Economic Forum was saying we needed something more if we were to ensure a better future by addressing wider impact.
Now there’s a growing interest in prioritizing ecosystems and holistic approaches that nurture the interconnected, multisector collaborative initiatives that are essential for complex issues and challenges.
For us, well as many others, it means expertise in supporting competency in complexity will be more valued and ideally prioritized with time and resources allocated.
As the world continues to face greater challenges each day — from increasing gaps in inequality to pandemic health threats, to a global climate crisis — emphasizing multisector collaboration with an eye on solving the challenges of both people and planet is gaining the traction that will result in the innovation and entrepreneurship that will be essential. The synergy of multisector collaboration will make it possible to climb mountains together to find the solutions to urgent local and global challenges.
Our hope is that you will join us on this exciting new journey.