Successful Networking and Fruitful Collaboration: Part Two
“How do you find the refugees who work for you?” The first time I was asked this question I had to stop and think. It dawned on me that I did not search them out. We have been working among refugees and displaced people for many years. I did not go find them, they came to me either by way of introduction or by seeking me out.
We have always made it a point when beginning a new work to research the various organizations and people working in the same geographical vicinity in similar fields of work. Years ago, this meant getting out phone books and showing up in offices. “Hello, my name is Nell Green. We are new to the area. We would like to learn more about you and the work you are doing.” This usually led to a follow up conversation over coffee or a meal. Always a key question in the conversation, “How might we collaborate?” Or, “How can we help?”
When we began Threads by Nomad and later The Off Ramp, we did not have to search out people. We made a few calls in the beginning. Area partners made suggestions. Word began to spread and people began coming to us and they still are. I am convinced that one of the reasons for this is the time and attention devoted not just to networking, but networking that leads to collaboration and relationship-building. I do not claim to be an expert in this field, but I thought I would share some of my tips for successful networking that leads to fruitful collaboration.
Here is the second and last set of five tips. Missed the first? Click here.
6. Mix and mingle with those who are NOT your tribe. I had operated in the religious world my entire adult life. I will never forget the first time in a big city walking into a conference room full of women from all sorts of business and professions. I had an acquaintance who suggested the group. So scary! That group of women turned out to be some of the best teachers, encouragers, and helpers imaginable. Many of them became friends. There are many ways to connect with these types of groups. MeetUp, for example, is one way to find and connect with folks who have a similar interest. They may not be your tribe, but you might become a part of their tribe.
7. Grab your messenger bag. I began our first regular email update in 1996. There were three people in my email list. Thankfully that number has grown! I began delving into the use of video conferencing and the use of webinars over 10 years ago. The first one had so much feedback noise I thought my ears would be permanently damaged. I use it multiple times a week now. I am not on every social media platform. I chose a couple that I can keep up with, but I do make use of it on a daily basis. Now we have just begun our first podcast.
Yes, this open messaging increases vulnerability. Of course you curate what you put out there, allowing for authenticity. By using these tools you are making yourself available.”I have been following you on facebook. I have a question about immigration.” “I watched your webinar on teaching English. I wonder if you can put me in contact with a class here in our area.” “I am looking for an organization that addresses education for refugee children.” “I have been hearing so much about human trafficking. I want to help.” Getting your message out permits people to learn about you, your purpose, your vision and seek you out for collaboration or greater understanding.
8. Enjoy a world without borders. That phone conference I mentioned earlier? Did I mention that one of the partners was in Central America, one was in Spain while I was in Texas and Christen in Virginia? Communication technology has made it possible for effective collaboration to occur among people separated by oceans, language, and culture. Don’t let that geographical border hinder something good. Challenges of culture and language can be overcome with intentional effort, listening, an ability to laugh at yourself, a sensitivity to differences, and a sincere appreciation for the other.
9. Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match! Perhaps you have met someone or learned of an organization that seems perfect—for someone else. Be the matchmaker. Go beyond the email introduction, though I do plenty of those as well. If you know both parties, bring them together over coffee and help the conversation get started. Ask pertinent questions. Ask one to fill the other in on recent projects. Draw out each party until they are comfortable engaging directly with the other. As soon as the relationship is moving forward become the listener facilitating the conversation only as needed. Both sides will thank you.
10. Expect expectations. Let’s be real. Everyone wants something. I confess this is probably one of the areas I struggle most with. I can be overwhelmed with all people are asking, wanting, needing, expecting. I cannot meet those demands. Sometimes, when I think it is just coffee and a chat only to learn the other person has an agenda, an expectation, I can become frustrated and disheartened. I shouldn’t. If I realize we all (me too!) have expectations and hope to achieve something, I am free to listen, perhaps contemplate, and then respond the way that is best for me and my organization at the time.
Networking and collaborating is rewarding. Perhaps you have been following the increasing numbers of displaced peoples at the border. On a recent trip to Juarez, I was reminded of these elements of successful networking and fruitful collaboration. Individuals, churches, government entities, private agencies, social agencies, and countless others were coming together using many of these principles to provide shelter, education, economic stability, and hope to the thousands displaced in their area.
What an inspiration! Are you ready to be inspired?