Cascade Alliance

Collaboration Benefits: Learning from Each Other, Building Relationships

Collaboration Benefits: Learning from Each Other, Building Relationships

One of the benefits of our network of business minded nonprofits is sharing. Access to information, resources, and wisdom is particularly valuable in the realm of materials management social enterprises. Commodities prices can slide or jump on a moment’s notice. Opportunities to get new materials can pop up in one location with sufficient volume to be spread across the network. A new strategy for handling stuff or marketing our work can quickly spread among members.


Collaboration has the potential to make us all stronger, but it can be difficult to employ across a national network. Why bother? A thoughtful piece about collaboration came out last year in the Harvard Business Review, noting both what collaboration is:


(a way of working that attracts and involves people outside one’s formal control, organization, and expertise to accomplish common goals)


and what it isn’t:


(Many people naively see collaboration as a leadership style in which relationships take precedence over the task at hand. But collaboration is not consensus. On the contrary, clarity about where the buck stops is one of the most critical enablers of efficient teamwork…)


Equally important is understanding the barriers: The biggest, according to HBR: ignorance about others’ expertise.


That’s one of many reasons we put so much emphasis on visiting our Cascade Alliance members and working with their teams to better understand their expertise.


Last week, we had some great collaborative learning when Forrest Gillespie from Big Reuse in Brooklyn headed down to work with the store crew at Scrap Exchange in Durham NC.


Bethany Cartledge, member liason from the mother ship in Eugene OR was on hand to help Scrap set up its new book department. She’s been setting up bookstores within retail thrift stores for many many years. Forrest will be leading an effort at Big Reuse to revamp how they sell books in their store. Besides the important work of getting the new book department up and running, three groups now have a better understanding of the skills and experience of their counterparts in other locations.


This is standard operating procedure across the alliance.


In November Thriftworks store manager Sam Ogunnaike spent a couple of days at the OppShop in Reading PA, helping organize the store’s back area, and sorting through a new swath of donated new merchandise to help staffers quickly assess value and get it on the shelves.

And Andre Williams, operations manager from Greater Bridgeport Community Enterprises, the nonprofit that helped pioneer mattress recycling under the nation’s first stewardship law, has recently with the crew at Mustard Seed in Orlando Florida and shared some efficiency strategies developed in Bridgeport.


We look forward to further collaboration opportunities in the coming year.