Collaborating for Change along the Los Angeles Riverfront

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 10.17.26 PMA Riverfront District in Los Angeles? Absolutely! How do we get there? Collaboration. I just facilitated a retreat for the recently launched North East Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative, “a holistic, collaborative urban planning effort to take advantage of the River as an economic development asset.”

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 9.43.32 PMA diverse set of stakeholders comprise this collaborative: the Los Angeles Community Development Department, the City of Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the USC Metamorphosis project, Occidental College’s Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, KCET Departures, L.A. Conservation Corps, the L.A. River Revitalization Corporation, Tierra West Advisors Inc. and the National Parks Service.

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 10.04.57 PMAs I mentioned in a previous post, collaborative change efforts require their own set of dynamics and challenges. With this in mind, I interviewed lead partners prior to the retreat and developed an engaging agenda to build stronger relationships, explore ways in which partners can most effectively support each other and enhance communication. As with all of my retreats, I facilitated a mix of large and small group sessions, this time incorporating drawing and kinesthetic learning.

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 9.41.42 PMOne of my favorite moments was involved facilitating an exercise in which everyone had to collaborate as a group to prevent the balloons from falling on the ground. This involved active communication, laughter, movement, strategy and fun. We debriefed and related the challenges of the exercise to challenges involved collaboration. One challenge with collaboration is each organization brings their own diverse culture and norms to the table. Each has their own “normal”. But my “normal” might be different than your “normal”. Effective collaboration builds trust among its participants as they negotiate working with each other over time. A retreat is a great place to discuss different approaches and ideas for more effective partnership. After discussing the big picture as a group, I split the large group into five smaller groups and each developed a set of strategies that they later prioritized as a large group.

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 9.42.07 PMI always like it when the location of the retreat relates to the work of the retreat. We held the retreat within the North East section of the LA River at Golden Road Brewery. We heard from Tony, it’s co-owner. Hosting it at this location made for a seamless transition into a more informal happy hour in which the conversations continued over some locally brewed ale.

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 10.14.45 PMIf you’re interested in learning more, check out the Collaborative’s River Bike + Walk Spectacular on April 27th! If you want even more riding along the Los Angeles River, I encourage you to join the Los Angeles River Ride, hosted by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

About Ron Milam

Ron Milam, MSOD, works to transform the Pacific Coast into a sustainable region through leadership and organization development for collaborative change initiatives. Since 2005, Ron has served over 150 clients as an organization and network development practitioner.
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