What’s in a name? The story behind ‘Living Collaborations’.
by Michelle Halse
Most businesses get asked this question at some point: “how did you choose your business name?” In an almost unexpected, but very pleasant, way telling the story of how we came up with ‘Living Collaborations’ has provided a gateway to gain deeper insights into the people we meet and clients we work with. Here goes!
Living Collaborations is, as with most business names, inspired by a few different things, all of which are beautifully illustrated by a collaboration we were lucky enough to be part of a few years ago: Open Project Night at Impact Hub Brixton, in London.
To provide a little context: Impact Hub Brixton is part of the family of Impact Hubs across the globe, offering co-working spaces for social change makers. In 2015, they pulled together a team of 25 people to participate in an online course called ‘U.Lab’; a social change technology developed by MIT professor Otto Scharmer in Theory U.
Using this technology, a group of passionate, local food activists and entrepreneurs began to sprout, all committed to investigating how they could bring together policy makers, growers, retailers, consumers and market traders to explore food poverty, waste and sustainability in nearby Lambeth, UK. But how to keep working on these big questions? That brings us to the next beautiful thing that seeded from this U.Lab collaboration: Open Project Nights, a prototype for designing and resourcing community businesses and projects. Put two and two together and you have Open Project Night at Impact Hub Brixton tackling local food insecurity, and one of the inspirations behind our name, Living Collaborations…
1. Life itself is endlessly collaborative.
Being in an intimate relationship, being part of a family, living in a shared household, working with others, playing a team sport, joining the library, shopping for groceries – there are dozens of collaborations that we are part of every single day just by virtue of being alive. To have fun, and to belong, we learn the rules of the game, play our part and let others play theirs. These everyday negotiations, concessions, generosities, indulgences, kindnesses, discoveries, frustrations, conflicts, pauses and decisions that we live through each and every day are, in essence, the basis for one big ‘living collaboration’.
For the people involved in Open Project Night, it was not just work; it was life. It embodied our shared passion and purpose, and brought forth ingenuity and wisdom. The way the community turned out in the evening, diverse people of all accents, ages and talents, bringing food, books, children, wine, sharing everything – together – that’s what life is all about, and it’s what collaboration is all about too.
In the same way that life is a collaboration, collaborations are also living, which brings us to the second reason behind our name…
2. Collaborations are living things.
As the evening progressed on our first Open Project Night at Hub Brixton, we all witnessed and experienced the dynamic process of co-designing and resourcing community businesses and projects. Our collaboration, as members of the community, was far from static. In fact, repetition, rigidity and rules are rarely the path to a flourishing collaboration. Instead, we committed to bringing intention, kindness, and generosity, alongside skilful facilitation to move us towards effectively supporting each other and the projects.
With this, the prototypes were tested and refined, and they adapted, expanded and gained momentum. We all grew and learned, together. In other words – we evolved and changed – just as human beings do.
Treating collaborations as ecosystems or living beings, where conditions and needs change, where energy sources ebb and flow, is the most fruitful path to a successful outcome. Implementing regular health-checks and holding space for open and honest conversations meant we could consistently gauge the sustainability of our endeavour and adapt to new conditions. This is what allowed for the third and final reason behind our name…
3. Collaborations have the ability to give life.
There were so many great examples of how Open Project Night embodied life-giving potential. One of our favourites was a community fridge collaboration near Hub Brixton. Using lessons from Frome, Germany, Spain and elsewhere, we co-created the opportunity for businesses to contribute surplus food to a public fridge – and anyone who needs food can take it. One person had the space and infrastructure to power it; we crowdfunded for the fridge; local traders offered product – a true collaborative endeavour. It was designed as much to draw the local community into engaging with food poverty, as it was a gift to people who needed it and, in that way, is a collaboration that gave life just by being.
Our purpose is to help build collaborations that are life giving and that bring positive change to our world, for those who need it most.
So, there you have it – the inspiration behind our name! If you want to experience the world-changing, life-giving potential of a living collaboration, please get in touch.