What Does It Really Mean When We Say “Collaborate?”
Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting down with my colleague and friend Carol Hardison to sign a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and Crisis Assistance Ministry. Our agencies work together all the time helping people with basic needs like shelter and clothing, connecting them to emergency financial assistance for utilities, and moving them into their new home.
So if our staffs are already collaborating, why sign an MOU?
To Carol and me it’s pretty simple; collaborating is a two-way street with the ultimate purpose of helping those our agencies exist to assist. By writing down our purpose and partnerships plans – what we’re going to do together and why – we’re committing publically to each other. We’re holding each other up as equal partners. We’re demonstrating to our staffs, clients, boards, volunteers, and the community that we’re working together, allowing each other to do what we do best, for the benefit of citizens in our community who need our help. Collaboration means we’re acknowledging our dependence on each other for success for our clients and, therefore, our community. This partnership is not something we take lightly nor do just to say we’ve done it. Staff at all levels of our two agencies have been working together to define our collaboration for months. Signing this MOU is the culmination of lots of discussions, certainly some compromises, and recognizing our own agencies’ strengths and weaknesses and then joining forces to compliment each other.
So, when the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte says we’re collaborating with Crisis Assistance Ministry, we’re saying that we value their expertise, trust them to reciprocate as partners, and know that by working together we’ll be able to further our mission of ending homelessness for each man. I’m proud to say publically that Crisis Assistance Ministry and Men’s Shelter of Charlotte are collaborators for the good of our community.