Wednesday, September 2, 2009

One ticket to reform, please

When viewers settle into their cinema seats to watch a film of their choosing, the very first thing they are exposed to is a list of credits. We are told who the actors are, who wrote the script, who directed the picture, who composed the score, who did the makeup, and who produced it all. To make a successful film requires many players of varying skills and tasks.

Though this process may produce an onscreen depiction of a story derived from a bard's imagination, the process to make it goes unseen to the audience for whom the product is created. It's not different than the process a business undergoes to manufacture a product, when designers, factory workers, and salesmen combine to turn an idea into a profit. And it's certainly no different than the process a civil society organization undergoes to transform an idea conceived in a meeting room into real change that betters the lives of real people, pulls people out of poverty, helps them rebuild after conflict, or supports them in fighting the obstacles that prevent them from progressing as a society. Partnerships are vital to change; indeed, without them, civil society initiatives fail to bring about reform and merely suck up donor funding that could be better spent in forming networks of cooperation.

We who spend our lives producing this product called change need to remember that when an RFP comes our way. Instead of competing for resources, we should cooperate. This would eliminate duplication of efforts and allow us to share our strengths and expertise. When one organization has a very good actor and another doesn't, but that one without the good actor has a very good director and the other doesn't, why are they both competing to make the same film?

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