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How to cooperate? Challenges and tools

--- This article was published in the "European Choral Magazine" 1/2014 ---

 

Starting a cooperation project with new partners is always a challenge: you cannot be sure of what they can achieve, and how reliable they are. Better a modest but successful project, leading the way to new collaborations, than an epic failure. The key is the preparation phase – the dreaming up of and exchanging of ideas, leading to rigorous evaluation and sharing of best practice.

 

Meet face to face

 

Working on shared project from distant locations is a huge challenge. Direct contact from a physical meeting allows for an unrestrained flow of information, emotions and a rich exchange of ideas, and should always be foreseen and funded through the project or the participating organisation‘s budgets. During the VOICE project, regular steering group meetings gathering all the partners are implemented, and we dedicated some means to finance bi- or multilateral meetings between the coorganisers. Of course, communication tools today allow for a close and regular contact, by combining phone calls, video conference, chat sessions, emails, etc. but they will only be efficient if the partners know and trust each other. Language can also be a barrier.. Even if a mutual working language is decided upon, everyone should try to be as clear as possible, not being afraid to ask for confirmation on important issues to avoid misunderstandings and useless delays.

 

 

Write down a cooperation agreement

 

We all know that attitudes toward work, negotiation, mistakes made, financial figures, social norms, etc. vary from one organisation to the other. However, do not expect all the Germans to be on time, Italians to be late, the French inefficient or the Dutch to travel only by bike! Traditional cultural prejudices are seldom true, and it takes some time to understand and adapt to the behaviour and values of one‘s partners. Patience, goodwill and adaptation have their limits, and some precise rules and obligations should be decided upon during the preparation phase. A written cooperation agreement is a very valuable tool, stating each partner‘s obligations, describing the financial organisation, naming the persons in charge for each partner, and indicating how changes to the cooperation are to be made. A cooperation often implies some sort of symbolic, operational and financial solidarity. If it is a success, everybody benefits, if it is a failure, everybody has to bear the consequences. If the rules and roles are clear, it is easier to focus on the tasks themselves, everyone is clear on their role in the cooperation project.

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This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein