A collaborative encounter never exists in isolation.
Effective and rewarding collaboration is often embedded in the broader context of a shared journey or process.
As we spend our days moving from meeting to meeting, or project to project, it becomes natural to perceive and treat each experience as an isolated standalone event with its own priorities and references.
Even within longer projects, a sense of continuity can be difficult to maintain as the work of producing events, experiences or products spreads out in time and space, as different people assume roles at differet stages of the journey, and as teams change and participants come and go.
Weave the Red Threads is a vital antidote to this kind of fragmentation, and one of the key patterns of the Collaborative Encounters methodology.
As a pattern, Weave the Red Threads can be used to address a wide range of challenges. Some of the most important include:
Incoherence. Participants in an encounter do not view themselves as or share responsibility for being part of a common group.
Lack of purpose. Participants do not understand the reasons why they are present, why a particular event is taking place.
Legitimacy. Practitioner feels they may not be seen to have legitimacy or permission to inaugurate or facilitate the encounter.
In China and Japan there is a legend or proverb that says an invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place or circumstances. In many collaborative encounters, conditions often mean these red threads between people, events and organisations are lost or simply forgotten.
Good collaborative experiences need to recreate this sense of continuity and shared experience - of the threads that connect the here and now to broader processes of work, creation and enquiry.
Try to find “red threads” that connect different individuals together and help create a sense of coherence and shared vision. Situate individual sessions in the context of other parallel work or even broader historical context - both within the organisation and outside of it. If you are holding a series of events, recurrent words, symbols or objects can be used very efficiently to create a sense of continuity.
Red threads may not only be about those people you directly encounter. Techniques like “What Would Wolf Say?” can help create space to connect your encounter with those who are not present but whose voice should be recognised.
Timelines, Objects, Narrative Planning Tool.
British Council timelines; Sparknow event with the Whitechapel Guernica exhibit; Charlie Feathers' 1992 introduction to "Look Up".