A window into Sweden
We’ve been spending time in Sweden lately, working with an initiative called FORWARD MALMÖ on change that spans sectors and organizations. To sum up their collective mandate: “Let’s make our city more prosperous for more people—and with a whole new concept of the word ‘prosperous’.”
In our last podcast episode, we spoke with a few of our Swedish collaborators on the orchestration of not only turning one slow-moving container ship, but several at the same time. It’s not a small ask! Imagine setting to-task on that mandate for any city in the world. In order to move the needle, you’d might think in terms of:
Alleviating poverty by reimagining the welfare system
Shining light and fresh air on entrenched imbalances stemming from race and class
Doing a better job of welcoming and empowering new citizens from diverse places
Inspiring businesses to innovate for greater creativity and opportunity
Re-invigorating community spaces and culture
What’s most important? What’s most impactful? Is it even possible to detangle the threads of each when they’re already so intertwined? Do we have to? Further, within each of those very broad containers of change, there’s a long list of potential items on the to-do list, depending on where you stand—from making sure children have good school lunches to connecting employers with language training programs.
What should we tackle first? Who is sitting at the table, and what are their spheres of influence? How do their spheres intersect with me, or with the rest of the people here? How can we make the most of those intersections to do good work together? How can we dismantle imbalances in power and influence between collaborators? What perspectives do we lack that may be filled-in and enriched by the perspectives of others? Once we’ve done a good job of listening to each other and examining the problem(s)-at-hand, how do we go about turning this cohort of organizational container ships—which are often at-odds—in a way that’s harmonious and effective?
Once we’ve done a good job of listening to each other and examining the problem(s)-at-hand, how do we go about turning this cohort of organizational container ships—which are often at-odds—in a way that’s harmonious and effective?
The people joining together for Forward Malmö are collaborating for big change while also answering to disparate organizational cultures, jurisdictions, and priorities. As systems change facilitators, this is at the root of our work. Helping individuals keep all eyes on the shared prize to work through difference and uncertainty? Sure. Now multiply that to organizations—all the human patterns and feelings, plus all the context and necessary confinement of this organizational mandate versus that one.
When individuals work together, conflict can feel very personal, but good listening and shared work can overcome it. When organizations work together, conflict can feel more justified and less retractable. In organizations, our beliefs can become very insular. We subscribe to certain narratives—perhaps without even knowing it. We decide based on the groupthink and the evidence provided by our context: This is how we do things. These are our accepted processes. This is our essential knowledge, and it’s precious to us. These are our fundamental assumptions, upon which our existence rests.
Heavy stuff, huh? It’s not always a bad thing—the galvanization that organizations give us has propelled humankind to all kinds of fantastic creations. But when we must band layers of organizations together, that same galvanization can grow incredibly tough taproots.
When multiple organizations come together with good intentions of sharing change, how do we open up and co-own new ways of working, sharing, and learning? In this video from the Malmö experience, Tim explores the state of being—and the leap of faith—essential to cross-sector, cross-organizational change.