Tuesday, 18 July 2017

This is how a collaborative person works: 24. recognise, acknowledge, reward and offer in-kind contributions

(This post draws heavily upon the experiences of Paul Macalindin as described in his book Upbeat, which chronicles his inspiring work with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq.)


'We added $10,000 for security to the budget to put everyone's mind at rest. Elgin Youth Orchestra had indeed generated a lot of in-kind sponsorship, and this seemed only fair.'

From Upbeat: the Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq by Paul Macalindin


Non-monetary 'in-kind' contributions can take many forms. They can be tangible resources: equipment, transport, accommodation, etc. They can be less tangible resources: people's time, knowledge and experience, contacts and influence.

Recognising, acknowledging, rewarding and offering in-kind contributions enhances collaborative working in the following  ways:
  1. It helps avoid the negative consequences of the 'Bingo Effect' and encourages involvement and contributions from a wide variety of partners and stakeholders.
  2. It changes people's perspectives about what they are doing and why they are doing it.     
The 'Bingo Effect' (click here to see a previous post that describes it in detail) occurs when obviously game-changing contributions are acknowledged and rewarded at the expense of others that have also, often just as significantly but more quietly and routinely, supported and enabled success. These latter contributions also tend to occur earlier rather than later upon the lifeline of a collaborative project, which can cause them to become at best half-remembered and at worst forgotten. 

The effect can be likened to the shouts of 'House' at the end of a game of bingo, where the last number called elicits shouts of celebration and the other numbers that contributed to the completion of the card or row are instantly (at least for that memorable moment) forgotten.

Diverse partners and stakeholders contributed at different times and in different ways to the founding, formation and development of the NYOI. If the attention grabbing game-changing contributions and those who made them had been valued and rewarded at the expense of the less headline making but equally significant contributions made by others, the NYOI would have quickly eroded the rich network of supporters upon which it relied. 

Instead, the NYOI maintained its diverse support system by acknowledging all contributions and taking them into account when making its own. 

Also, by acknowledging and valuing all contributions (including those made in-kind) the NYOI sent a strong message to potential partners and supporters: it told them that the contributions they were capable of making would at least be taken seriously and acknowledged and at best be embraced and rewarded.

In addition to the benefits gained from valuing and accepting in-kind contributions, there are important benefits associated with offering them:

'As is the norm in all national youth orchestras, performing without a fee shifted players' attitudes, because it taught them how to simply give with love and, in doing so, reconnect them with the reason why they were making music.'

Within a collaborative environment, where much of what is achieved is dependent upon the intrinsic motivations and driving passions of the partners, encouraging an attractive and enlightened attitude towards the tasks and activities people do is essential. Requiring people to give in-kind contributions, in the above instance performing without a fee, is a very effective way of providing this encouragement.

In so doing, people are strongly reminded of the essential value of their individual and combined efforts: what is fundamentally important about what they do.

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