This is the first in a series of three pieces on trust being published in 100Kin10’s “Experiments in Networked Impact”
By Talia-Milgrom Elcott, Founder and Executive Director of 100Kin10
Can we truly work together to take on and solve bigger challenges than any of us could have solved alone?
There’s a beautiful piece of Jewish wisdom that teaches that each of us on our life’s journey has most but not all of our own puzzle pieces, and some of other people’s. Our life’s work is completing our own puzzle, which necessarily means we need to find those people out there who have some of our pieces, and whose pieces we have. There is no other way to wholeness.
Though perhaps not as emotionally weighty, the metaphor is no less true for the big problems that we’re all trying to solve.
Indeed, many of the problems that linger for the kids and communities we care about most are exactly the problems that live just beyond our organizational boundaries, in the interstices where one organization’s mission statement ends and another’s begins. And many of the hardest problems that we have yet to confront on the path to 100,000 excellent STEM teachers are exactly those that start where one person’s job description trails off, and where no one else’s exactly starts.
As President Obama said in his second inaugural:
We have always understood that . . . preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. . . . No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future . . . Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.
If we’re going to solve the truly global challenges we face — climate change, socioeconomic inequality, hunger, disease — and if we’re going to achieve any of the big goals we’ve laid out for ourselves, starting with 100Kin10, we’re going to need a paradigm shift in how individual institutions — and the people inside them — approach each other.
We need to move from being competitors to being co-problem-solvers and allies — each of us needing one another for the puzzle pieces that will, together, allow us to fulfill our missions.
Though we talk a good game as a sector about collaboration, most of the incentives run the other way: your performance evaluation for one, and fundraising, where you have to explain how your work is unique in all the world, and public attention and press — the small stuff, as someone once quipped. It’s hard to cooperate in an environment that is set up to foster competition. Add to that that each of us has a lot to work on inside the boundaries of our own organizations and within our own mission statements.
Who has the time or energy or money to take on the challenges that exist beyond the four walls of our offices? And so it becomes natural to see each other as competitors for scarce resources and collaboration as a box to tick off, or an extra burden better shirked than embraced.
100Kin10 has experimented with various ways of bringing organizations together to learn and share across organizational boundaries and to collaboratively work on big, shared problems. But what we’ve come to understand is that no amount of genuine learning or sharing will happen if, responding to the perverse incentives in the non-profit space, we view each other suspiciously. To make any of the magic in networked impact happen, we need a foundation of trust.
Trust, you ask? That seems super loosey goosey and vague. Show me something measurable! The next post will unpack the logic behind Why Trust, and the third in this mini-series on trust will share super practical tools for how we build it into the fabric of 100Kin10.