A Collaborative Community

Originally published November 1, 2017 by The Montrose Daily Press

Collaboration is one of those well intended buzzwords that dies just a little every time it is overused. If we want to be good contributors to our career, family, friendships or any other human relationship (dogs are much more willing to take their half out of the middle), we must be good collaborators.

I recently sat in on a conference listening to theories on community collaboration. Thoughts of all my professional “hats” swirled in my head. I’ve been going about my dual role of city and chamber for almost a year by keeping the two somewhat separate in theory and practice. This prompted the thought: Is what we are doing really what is best for our residents and businesses? Should they (businesses and people) have to research exactly who and what does what? Or, should they simply raise their hand and say, “I need help”?

When thinking about the mission of our organizations (nonprofits specifically), we should consider these things as they relate to collaboration:

1. Is this process being carried out with the intention of serving the end user in the very best way possible? In other words, are we using all of our resources to pay salaries and overhead to keep us afloat? Whose best interest do we have at heart? This is a delicate topic. People work incredibly hard and their work is a labor and passion of love, but we must examine what we are actually accomplishing at the end of the day.

2. Are there other organizations providing these services or services within the same wheelhouse that we can combine with?

3. What would it look like to not be in competition over limited resources, but instead capitalize on the combined resources available?

Perhaps this is the non-profit version of a “corporate merger” with more pure and heartfelt intention. This isn’t the first we’ve heard of this. We’ve tried in many different capacities before. Some successful, and some not so successful. Point being: There are more than 200 non-profit organizations in Montrose County, each with a passionate and meaningful mission. Is this efficient and sustainable?

The business world has figured out economies of scale. Is there potential for a little “mission creep” (read: the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or organization) in Montrose? After all, we no longer stop at the butcher, the grocer and the dairy for everything we need to feed our family for the week. We can now buy everything in one place. Perhaps we need a bit of that type of evolution within our nonprofit community.

Collaborative efforts such as these are often leadership dependent and may get political and territorial faster than they can become productive. It is easy to see why. We all work incredibly hard for the success we see. We’ve built relationships, raised money and created a brand and reputation for our organization.

Those are all great things, but still leaves the question:

If I’m a business or person needing services, and I step foot into the process, will I feel better in the end or will I feel “referred,” “transferred” and ultimately, “frustrated”?

Collaborative models exist already. Take The PIC Place: This organization has created an integrated health care system that is garnering national attention. And why? The model takes the end user and thinks about their needs first. PIC treats the whole person all in one visit, all in one place. What’s more? They’re taking it a step further by providing career education in an effort to lift patients out of poverty and into a career that ultimately eliminates their need to access subsidized services in the first place. It is brilliant.

It is also hard. Dentists, physicians, behavioral health practitioners, optometrists, college professors, support staff and all the partners who support them must work together as one huge moving part. A difficult feat on a good day.

This thought process does not have to be limited to health care. There are many opportunities before us. One day perhaps we will see a place where we no longer hover over our small little campfires with room for only one or two others, but instead we stand united around a big and inextinguishable raging flame.

It’s a place where we ask hard questions. We have hard conversations. When they say it can’t be done, we don’t believe them. And the next time someone raises their hand asking for help, we collaboratively and directly serve the need.

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of Business Innovation, City of Montrose. Reach her at chelsea@montrosechamber.com.