As my partner and I prepared to host a meal for his growing number of coworkers, I realized that many of the key ingredients for sharing a meal also apply to shared space. It’s no wonder that many nonprofit centers use the breaking of bread as a gateway to bigger, more important forms of collaboration. We learned at Streaming Social Good that collaboration isn’t something that’s natural – it’s something that you have to practice. A potluck is an easy way to practice and reflect on the principles of collaboration, while gathering with friends. Here’s are my reflections on how the key ingredients of a good potluck apply to shared spaces:
- The goal is clear! At great potlucks, you know why you’re there – to have fun and eat some great food. The same is true of strong shared spaces – every person knows why they’ve joined this group, why they’ve moved their offices under one roof with their partners.
- The host gets things rolling, while inviting others to share their skills. The host of a potluck provides a little structure to the shindig, outlining the time and date, and the list of things that will be needed. Like a host, a shared space manager helps their community to identify the skills needed to meet their goals.
- Invite people to volunteer. Once the menu is outlined, you invite people to volunteer to play a role. Whether someone brings a three-layer chocolate cake they worked on for hours or someone just grabbed a bag of chips and dip from the store, each role is important for a plentiful meal. In shared space, the leaders need to recognize all the contributions, small and large, that make the community possible. Everyone has a specialty that will shine when you let people play to their strengths.
- Reap the rewards together. The best part of a potluck is eating the fruits of everyone’s labor. In the meal, you get to appreciate what has come together. While it may not be perfect, it will be bountiful. In shared space, it’s important to remember to celebrate the things that have happened because your community has come together under one roof. Savor the successes, no matter how small.
Take a moment to think about your shared space. If it were a potluck, would it be one that you’d show up to? If not, how can you realign things to make it easier for people to participate? Sometimes what seems to be a complex problem can be very simple if you look at it in a different light.