Steve Thairu Mbaki

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Radical Collaboration: Beyond Working Together

Radical Collaboration is a concept that goes beyond just working together. It points out ways of working together that are built on trust, shared goals, and leveraging the strengths of everyone involved. Radical collaboration refers to a big visible shift in a system that mostly begins at an individual level and trickles down to an organisational level or societal level and significantly alters its structure, behaviour, or core principles. It involves substantial deviation from the status quo and often requires challenging existing norms, beliefs, and practices.

Some key aspects of radical collaboration include mutual trust and respect, focus on shared goals and bringing in diverse perspectives. Mutual trust and respect aims to make people feel comfortable sharing ideas and admitting mistakes without fear of judgement. With the focus on shared goals, everyone is working towards a common objective, and individual egos are set aside for the good of the team. Finally, harnessing diverse perspectives means that the experiences, thoughts and skills of all are valued and used to find the best solutions.

Addressing the serious threat of climate change to humanity requires radical collaboration among governments, businesses, non-profit organisations, scientists, and individuals worldwide. Initiatives like the Paris Agreement, signed by nearly every country in the world, exemplify collaborative efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Additionally, grassroots movements and activist groups advocate for systemic change and raise awareness about environmental issues, fostering collaboration across sectors and communities. The Congo Basin Forest is a good example of partnership that brings together governments, NGOs, and local communities to protect one of the world’s largest tropical rainforests.

Humanitarian crises such as wars, natural disasters, conflicts, and pandemics, radical collaboration among governments, NGOs, international organisations, and volunteers is crucial for effective response and recovery efforts. Organisations like the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and the United Nations collaborate with local partners and communities to provide aid, medical assistance, and support to those in need. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria beginning its operations in 2002 have facilitated Radical Collaboration among governments, NGOs, philanthropic organisations, and affected communities to combat infectious diseases in Africa. This collaborative approach has led to significant progress in reducing the burden of diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis across the continent of  Africa.

Kenya experienced widespread protests against the proposed Finance Bill 2024, which included significant tax hikes on essential goods and services. The protests saw extensive participation from Kenyans. The use of social media and digital tools allowed for a high degree of coordination and visibility, which was essential in sustaining the momentum and drawing international attention to the protests​. Kenyan protests of June 2024 exemplify how radical collaboration across different segments of society, supported by digital activism, can lead to significant political and economic changes.

Achieving the monumental feat of The Apollo 11 moon landing of humans on the moon required radical collaboration among a vast team of scientists, engineers, astronauts, and also governments. Organisations like NASA collaborated with private companies, universities, and international partners to develop the technology and expertise necessary for space exploration. The successful moon landing in 1969 not only advanced space exploration but also inspired generations to pursue science and innovation.

Radical Collaboration has been used to inspire change in various contexts, from businesses to social justice movements. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States saw radical collaboration among various civil rights leaders, activists, and organisations. Individuals like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and many others collaborated across racial, religious, and socio-economic lines to advocate for equality and racial justice. Their collaboration led to significant legislative changes and societal shifts, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Collaborative efforts in education and empowerment have led to the expansion of access to quality education and skills training in many African countries. Partnerships between governments, NGOs, private sector actors, and international donors have supported initiatives such as building schools, training teachers, and providing scholarships, particularly for marginalised communities and girls. It has also played a crucial role in fostering economic growth and reducing poverty in Africa. Public-private partnerships, investment in infrastructure, and initiatives promoting entrepreneurship and job creation have been instrumental in driving economic development and improving livelihoods across the continent.

In conclusion, radical collaboration can yield results personally, socially, technologically, structurally and culturally. In structural collaboration we see altering the fundamental components or framework of a system or organisation. It may include changes in organisational hierarchy, processes, policies, or infrastructure. Cultural collaboration focuses on transforming the values, attitudes, and behaviours within a group or society. It often involves challenging deeply ingrained norms and fostering new cultural paradigms. Technological collaboration brings about radical transformations in various aspects of life which often disrupt traditional practices and create new opportunities and challenges. Social collaboration brings movements, revolutions, and reforms can lead to radical changes in social structures, power dynamics, and relationships within societies. On an individual level, radical change refers to significant transformations in beliefs, values, habits, or lifestyles. It often involves self-reflection, introspection, and deliberate efforts to break old patterns and adopt new ways of thinking and behaving.