“I mean, let’s be real here. Do I really care about what you do? I see you, I know what field you work in—college access, youth development, environmental justice, mental health—but do I really care about you? Do we really care about each other? Do we even know each other?”
The honesty killed me, and I loved it.
It was our final collaborative meeting of the year, and one of the community partners had the courage to speak up, to name the reality of our own, self-imposed dynamic. It impacted me, and it helped me name the question that has been nagging at me for the entire year.
What does it mean to work collaboratively? What does it mean to be interdependent? And specifically, what does accountability look like in collaborative, interdependent, community and family partnerships?
More personally, as a coordinator, I want to know what it means for my role. In fact, I’m blogging this specifically to raise up these questions since I imagine there are other coordinators out there working through similar challenges. What is my role in accountability?
When one of the community partners can’t support the program or the position they promised, what do I do? When a community partner promises to be collaborative, but plans in isolation, what do I do? When a community partner fails to send information by a deadline, what do I do? When my principals notice and feel community partners aren’t worth relying on, what do I do?
I’m not their manager. Yes, we have an MOU, but that’s not how we do business at our school. We believe in the messiness. We believe in relationships, relational trust, conversations, and doing what needs to get done, not working off of some sort of task list.
But I remember and realize where we’re at, I remember what was said at our collaborative meeting. Do we truly care? We believe in relationships, but do we have them? To what or whom are we even accountable?
I hope you didn’t come to this blog expecting answers. I don’t have them yet. All I know are these three things:
We’re working on it. Despite my frustration with accountability, I’m incredibly proud of how far the collaborative has come in a mere five months, and I’m encouraged by the fact that we have SEVEN issues we, TOGETHER, want to tackle next year (increased staff involvement in the collaborative, staff awareness of existing programs, partners acknowledging other partners, identifying and targeting common need areas, building a collaborative and supportive culture, the school recognizing the value of the collaborative, and, most importantly, accountability).
“When we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” I’m going to treat my partners as I want them to be, even when I’m confused or frustrated.
This is going to get messy, and I’m okay with that.
We have so many courageous conversations to come. I’m looking forward to them.