YCI Forum - Let's Expand Collaborations




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Oct 22, 2018
by Oscar Tollast
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YCI Forum - Let's Expand Collaborations

Fellows discuss their experiences - good and bad - of collaborating with others and the significance of cross-sectoral work Salzburg Global believes in fostering lasting networks and partnerships for creative, just and sustainable change

One of the three strategic aims for Salzburg Global Seminar is to expand collaborations and foster laster networks and partnerships for creative, just, and sustainable change. Participants of the fifth program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators were reminded of the benefits of working with others midway through this year’s program.

Participants were asked to consider several questions. What are the characteristics of good and bad collaboration? To what extent do YCIs already engage in cross-sectoral work? How can the cultural sector engage more actively in cross-sectoral collaboration? What are some of the barriers to success and how can they be overcome?

In the opening session of the program, participants talked about the perception of themselves and others and how often they can be wrong. They talked about the values they work with, particularly empathy and the ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes. Participants were reminded to consider their relationship with power and their own place within existing structures.

“We think that power is a zero-sum game… but it isn’t. Power is like love,” one facilitator remarked. The more we give to others, the more powerful we become. In a pre-program questionnaire, 90 percent of respondents said it was important to collaborate across sectors, while 75 percent said they were doing this already.

On Friday morning, participants were asked to consider bad collaborations they had experienced. They were then asked by facilitators to put forward a word or phrase to describe them. Participants spoke about egos, insecurity, inequality, control, unreliability, selfishness, corruption, greed, and miscommunication. The group also heard how a difference of values and hidden agendas had led to bad experiences.

After this exercise, participants were asked to think about a positive collaboration they had been involved in. These experiences involved good communication, win-win situations, enthusiasm, empathy, respect, openness, shared values and language, flexibility, accountability, and a mutual understanding between all parties.

Participants were invited to talk about their experiences in more detail. One participant said he had two experiences, one which worked and one which didn’t. He collaborated with an architect which didn’t work. He had the funds but the conversation started with, “When do you need this by?” Not “What is the project?”

In his other collaboration, he worked with a university department. The conversation started with the outcome and what both parties wanted to achieve. Both parties shared a purpose and wanted to achieve something at the same time.

Another participant, meanwhile, spoke about a time in his life where he was desperate for help and desperate to work with other people. This led him to believe sacrifices had to be made when opening his arms to others. However, he had a self-realization. He told participants, “Be careful with what you sacrifice in the name of collaboration.” As a group, participants were reminded by one facilitator that “no one has perfect collaboration skills. Every relationship is different.”

Participants were then pointed toward examples of collaborations involving YCIs from previous programs. This included Kleidi Eski, who has recently helped devise a campaign with others and produced a music video to save the Valbona and Vjosa Rivers.

Make friends with strange people beyond stigma. That was the message put forward to this year’s participants. One facilitator said, “I think this is the only way we can go and faster.”

It is important to reach out and have conversations with others you think you never can. An example used to highlight this involved a “shy and retiring” man from the countryside in the United Kingdom. Every month he would make a trip to the city and smile at 20 people he didn’t know. He would then count how many smiles he received in return, whether that be four, six, eight, or zero.

Participants were reminded that they are now a part of the YCI Forum’s ever-growing network, which now includes more than 250 people. In addition to their city/region hubs, they are encouraged to draw upon the experience, talents, and knowledge of all YCI alumni.

If that isn’t enough, they are also members of the Salzburg Global Fellowship, which includes thousands of Fellows from multiple sectors, regions, and backgrounds. The potential for cross-sectoral collaboration is strong.

Alone we may go faster, but together we go further. As cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

The Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators V is part of a ten-year multi-year series. This year's program is supported by the Albanian-American Development Foundation, American Express, Arts Council Malta, Arts Council Korea, Asia-Europe Foundation,  Bush Foundation, Cambodian Living Arts, Canada Council for the Arts, Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, Foundation Adelman pour l’Education, Fulbright Greece, Japan Foundation, Korea Foundation, the Llewellyn Thompson Memorial Fellowship, Robert Bosch Stiftung, The Kresge Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Nippon Foundation, World Culture Open, Adena and David Testa, and the U.S. Embassy Valetta, Malta. More information on the program can be found here. More information on the series can be found here. You can follow all the discussions on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by using the hashtag #SGSyci.