Considerations for Fostering Local FAC Collaboratives
Authors: Michelle Medley-Daniel
Following our last webinar we surveyed Network participants about topics they’d like to learn more about. Among the many ideas provided was a request to learn more about network leadership and collaborative tools. Today I want to share a concept I’ve found useful in considering how to create a durable collaborative effort.
Wendy Fulks and I were fortunate to attend a leadership training hosted by the Interaction Institute for Social Change last fall where we learned about “Facilitative Leadership.” The training was full of helpful ideas, and one of my favorite parts was an exercise that helped us think about how we approach our work in three dimensions: results, process and relationships. To explore this, we were put into teams that were competing to build a tower out of office supplies. After we’d built our towers we discussed the activity and explored how results, process and relationships played into the dynamics of the game.
We talked about how individuals may care about one of these aspects over others at different times. Some people cared a lot about results—did we get our tower done on time, was it sturdy, was it the tallest? Others cared more about figuring out a process for working together—did we understand how we were going to make decisions, was it clear to everyone what their role on the team was? And others were more focused on relationships—was everyone engaged and supported, were we connected and committed to working together, did we trust each other?
As network weavers and leaders, we need to think about how to service all of these aspects of collaborative work in order to create durable, long-term community resilience. Not everyone we work with will care about the same things. As leaders in local FAC collaborations it’s our job to recognize and value that diversity, and consider ways to meet the needs of our group.
1. Results – What are we trying to do? What outcomes is our group trying to achieve?
As FAC practitioners, we’re all working to reduce our risk to wildfire. We’re taking action that helps us learn to live more safely with fire. The results we’re targeting may vary based on the kind of ecosystem our communities are in, and what our community values are, but at the core our intended outcome is the same: to be able to live with fire without the loss of lives or property. These results are not something that can be achieved overnight. We can make progress toward them, but it will take consistent action to achieve and maintain risk reduction and resilience.
Considerations for local coordinating teams: Have you worked together to define common goals including short- and long-term results? Have you figured out how to measure progress toward these results? Making sure to define what you will do together can help people who care about results to stay engaged and excited about your work.
2. Process – How are we going to work together?
It’s important to remember, especially when working on long-range goals, that it’s not just the results, but also the process by which you get to them, that will keep some people engaged. For some of your partners, the process may be their top priority. Deciding how to work together—no matter how formally or informally–will help set expectations, avoid confusion and allow people to engage effectively and efficiently.
Considerations for local coordinating groups: Your perspective or organization may have you used to working with partners in a certain defined way. Maybe you work for a fire department that is used to working with mutual aid agreements, or with a federal agency that works through agreements and grants or a non-profit that builds coalitions. None of these are “right” or “wrong” — there are lots of ways to work with groups, and your local coordinating group needs to decide which ways will accommodate your needs.
3. Relationships – How are we going to relate to each other?
At the heart of a resilient community are the connections among community members. The relationships that allow us to receive help, share knowledge, offer support and give resources are a critical part of what make us resilient. That’s why weaving networks helps promote fire adapted communities—it creates the relationships that you can call on to take action before, during and after a fire.
Considerations for local coordinating groups: Local coordinating groups, in all their forms, are one of the forums that can help us build relationships. Nurturing the relationships among participants is critical, so that when the time comes they will call on each other. Your coordinating group members are not just the entities they represent; they are people, and fostering genuine interaction and caring among them will make your community more resilient.
As a FAC leader you’re likely involved in all kinds of groups and organizations. At times, you may be involved in work where the “triangle” is weighted more heavily toward one aspect or another. Depending on the context and what the people in the group want out of their work, that’s fine. However, as we strive for long-term FAC resilience it will serve us well to invest in each of these dimensions of success.
What are some of the ways you’re working to balance your local FAC’s investments in results, process and relationships?