PECS #6: Engaging with interpersonal challenges of collaboration with Rebecca Freeth

While collaboration strikes most of us as a strategic and sensible way of working, it can also be very challenging. Failing to engage productively with interpersonal challenges can fundamentally undermine the potential of a collaborative project, or even result in its breakdown. This presentation takes as its starting point that collaborative challenges cause discomfort. I will suggest that discomfort keeps us alert to the possibility to build collaborative capacity while collaborating, and explore collaborative capacities worth cultivating. This includes paying attention to power dynamics in collaborative teams. Lastly, I will mention possibilities for collaborating in a time of social distancing and lockdown.

Rebecca is a practitioner and scholar who researches, teaches, facilitates, and writes about collaboration. A fascination with the challenges of realizing meaningful collaboration has been at the heart of her work since coordinating a 200-organisation strong network on violence against women early in her career (1998 – 2001).

In her work with Reos Partners (2009 to date), Rebecca has designed and facilitated long-term collaborative processes between members of civil society, business, academia and government to tackle issues demanding their collective attention and action. These include collaborations in the food system and land reform system in South Africa. From 2016 to 2019, Rebecca took a sabbatical to conduct her doctoral research in the Leverage Points project at Leuphana University, where she studied interdisciplinary collaboration in the field of sustainability. This was followed by a stint at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam Germany as a senior fellow to integrate her learnings from practice and research.