Collaboration is the value of the month for July’s More Than Words program. Collaboration is about believing in a cause bigger than yourself and working towards a greater good.

We see this happening all over our community each day and it’s a value we want to encourage in everyone in Whitewater Valley. You can do your part to foster a spirit of collaboration at home, in our youth, and in the workplace. 

Collaboration at Home 

Do you feel like your hands are full all the time? Collaboration could be the key to less stress and more efficiency around the house. Work with your partner, kids, roommates, and anyone else you live with to lighten the load. Collaboration provides a sense of support, strengthens family ties, develops good habits, and sets you all up for success.  

How do you get started building a more collaborative household? It begins with communication.  

  • Communicate internally to identify the pain points you’re facing. What’s the biggest frustration or where is the ball being dropped when it comes to important tasks? Make a list of your thoughts.  
  • Inventory your family members’ interests, skillsets, and level of responsibility. You’ll want to assign the right tasks to each person based on what they’re capable of and what they like to do. You’re more likely to get positive, productive collaboration when the right tasks are delegated to the correct person.  
  • Communicate your goals (what you’d like to be accomplished and the deadline) and ensure each person knows their assignment.  
  • Listen to your family’s feedback, their concerns, risks, and points of view. Your teen might have found a faster way to accomplish their part of the task that you can implement for future use…it may be because he or she wants to get back to their video game, but that’s okay because you collaborated! 
  • Follow up with praise! Make sure that each person feels validated. You want to make this a positive experience for everyone involved so that you’ll see more enthusiastic collaboration the next time you need it.  

Collaboration with Kids 

Your kids probably already collaborate with other kids at school on projects and on the playground. So they’re well-versed in peer collaboration. Here’s the thing: once they get out of school, they’re immersed in a world of multiple generations that they must collaborate with on a regular basis…and that’s not taught in schools. How can we foster a spirit of collaboration with kids? Alyssa Smith, a middle school teacher at Whitby School in Greenwich, Connecticut, has some suggestions. 

“For starters, take advantage of siblings, neighbors, and friends. As kids play together, they naturally fall into a collaborative rhythm. Depending upon how old your children are, they may love the idea of collaborative challenges.”

Have your kids try some of these on for size: 
  • Invent a new and delicious healthy snack using the ingredients in our kitchen.  
  • Using this plastic cutlery left over from your brother’s birthday party, try building the highest tower you can.  
  • Think of a “kid problem” that you can solve today. 
  • Design an obstacle course in our backyard. 
  • Create an educational video starring you. 
  • Write a song together. 

Another simple idea to encourage collaboration is to invite your children to help you problem solve. Does your child forget to do his or her homework frequently? Or perhaps you’re waging a bedtime battle. Wait for a time when you’re all “cooled off” and ask your child to share his or her ideas for how to solve the problem. Think aloud about the positive aspects and potential challenges of the ideas presented. 

Put forth some of your own ideas and ask your child to give you feedback, too. Show your child that you’re partners in finding solutions to family problems; they’ll feel more confident and at the same time develop a greater sense of responsibility. 

Be on the lookout for collaborative opportunities at home, and you’ll nurture your child’s love of discovery and learning.” 

Collaboration at Work 

Working from home this past year may have felt isolating, but it also demonstrated that humans can be incredibly collaborative even when physically separated. How can we keep up the momentum now that so many of us are back in the office and things are somewhat back to normal?  

Create an open, transparent culture in the office.  
  • Don’t hide issues: share with your team, staff, and co-workers what goals and problems you, your project, and the company are facing. You don’t have to go overboard and share confidential information but make an attempt to communicate more. This will allow you to harness the talents of your team members who may have a creative way to solve your problem and keep everyone focused on your company’s strategic objectives. 
Enforce a judgement-free zone. 
  • People shy away from collaboration when they feel like they might get laughed at or shamed for their ideas. This pressure is toxic to collaboration. Make it known that new ideas are always welcome – even if they are outside of the box or ambitious. Don’t stifle creativity! 
Get your departments to work together. 
  • Encourage collaboration between different teams. Everything has a ripple effect from department to department. By collaborating, you can allow people with differing objects, skillsets, and ways of thinking to work together to solve problems more efficiently than ever before. This also facilitates better communication. 
Reward collaboration. 
  • Demonstrate what collaboration looks like by leading from the top down and be sure to recognize and reward collaboration every time you see it. This provides vital feedback, so you get collaboration that is useful in the workplace and encourages more members of the team to start to work collaboratively.  

Collaboration at United Way of Whitewater Valley 

We collaborate, too! United Way of Whitewater Valley (UWWV) works with local businesses, government organizations, nonprofits, and other entities to address problems endemic to our communities within Union County and Wayne County. Why do we work with so many different organizations? No single organization can do it all on their own. UWWV is the essential connection between businesses looking to establish a culture of corporate social responsibility and organizations in need of financial assistance to serve our communities.  

Program Partners 

We’ve talked about how United Way of Whitewater Valley (UWWV) is the force that convenes partners and leverages resources within a community, but who are the ones doing the work each day to transform lives for the better? UWWV Program Partners! United Way of Whitewater Valley Program Partners are nonprofits who support our community.  Our areas of focus are childhood success, youth success, economic mobility, and access to healthcare.   

UWWV Program Partners are nonprofits with a clear mission, dedication to solving urgent needs within the community, and ethical processes. These traits are important to us. We want to ensure funding from our  Corporate Partners and donors stays local and goes to the people and programs that need it most.  

We collaborate with our Program Partners by marshaling the resources of our communities in Union County and Wayne County to identify what’s really needed and vetting our local charitable organizations that are best suited to address those community needs. Every program meets a need, addresses the root cause of the need, and creates outcomes of change in our four focus areas. To put it simply, we do everything in our power to ensure the right people are solving the right problems and that they have the resources they need to make transformational change in our community.   

Corporate Partners 

Corporate Partners are the amazing employers of Wayne and Union County residents. They take it upon themselves to help support the work UWWV and our Program Partners. Giving campaigns allow corporations to build a relationship with the communities where their employees live work and play.  

Corporate Partners organize Employee Workforce Campaigns that are aligned with our Annual Campaign (2021’s theme is “Make It Happen”). Employees rally around this common goal to raise a funds to improve Childhood Success, Youth Success, Economic Mobility, and Access to Health.  

Campaign activities foster a fun and collaborative environment in the workplace. We’ve seen Employee Workforce Campaigns include team fitness challenges, mascot challenges, food events, and celebrations that encourage and promote a spirit of fun and teamwork.  

Collaboration is everywhere in our community. We hope you take some time this month to think about ways you can help us build a more collaborative environment. Because when you collaborate everyone benefits and lives in harmony. 

About More Than Words 

More Than Words is a program of the United Way of Whitewater Valley that seeks to connect schools, businesses, and community organizations in order to give kids and families a vision for how we live and work together in Wayne and Union Counties. We use a series of monthly words each month and work together toward a better way to be.