Collaboration is a journey

April 28, 2017
by Demetrius Falconer 

(Previously posted here)

 

Have you ever worked on a project with classmates, family members or a scout group? If you have, the sound of the word “collaboration” may conjure up sweaty palms, shortness of breath or pure panic. This was my initial reaction when asked to participate in the Civic Commons journey. Collaboration is a journey, where there is no hierarchy in the union and a presence of equality.

 

Akron participants at Civic Commons Learning Journey; photo credit: Can Turkyilmaz

 

Collaboration with the absence of hierarchy

Societies around the world are led by hierarchical structures. One person is the head, and all others should follow. This way of leading tends to represent the interest of the head and not the tail. Today, the Civic Commons journey is different. Reimagining Akron’s Civic Commons journey requires the collaboration of many organizations with the absence of a hierarchy. With a common goal in mind, participants willingly relinquished all desires to be the head of this family. From directors of city government offices like Chris Ludle, Deputy Director of Public Service and established organizations like Summit Metro Parks to home-grown resident retirees of the community like Ms. Grace and grassroots training programs like Students With A Goal (SWAG), Akron Civic Commons table is a flat structure for mobilizing all interested parties. The first meeting I attended without my director was nerve wrecking. Part way through the meeting, I found myself jumping into the conversation with my questions and asking for clarifications. Yes. I just jumped right in and there were no boos or “side-eye” expressions as I previously expected. All parties involved were engaged and appreciated the next person’s perspective. The unspoken validation of my views solidified the feeling of true collaboration, and I wanted more.

 

Akron participants at Civic Commons Studio #1; photo credit: Meredith Edlow

 

Equal value, equal weight

A second element of validation was a feeling of equality. A calming feeling that each of the three locations represented in the Akron Civic Commons project are equal: equal value, equal weight, and an equal voice of expression. This table does not have a “golden child” ready to take the attention from the other. The concept of equality may seem as common as apple pie to you. However, when the three locations — downtown Akron, Park East and Summit Lake — were examined closer, it was obvious that sense of being valued was an uncommon experience for residents of these communities. Residents have experienced years of disenfranchisement from educational programs, disconnection from the city itself because of highways, and even dismissal from participating in the development of their communities. Regardless of the historical and socio-economic lineage of the three chosen communities, the Akron Civic Commons family has elected to create civic spaces with a vision of equality.

 

photo credit: Tim Fitzwater

Pump House at Summit Lake

 

Learning and participating in the city I love

As I continue to map out other elements of collaboration, such as patience and perseverance, I no longer start to hyperventilate at the thought of creating significant strides at the Akron Civic Commons table. As a matter of fact, I am elated to have a seat at the Civic Commons table, where the absence of a hierarchy and the element of equality are the guiding forces of this journey. Even though I am a 13-year resident of Akron, I am new to Summit Metro Parks and the Akron Civic Commons project. This opportunity has allowed me to learn more and actively participate in the city my family calls home. This opportunity is allowing me to learn more about the city I love.

Cabin on Cascade Plaza; photo credit: Tim Fitzwater

Demetrius Lambert-Falconer is outreach manager at Summit Metro Parks.