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“We mutually pledge…”

January 6, 2011

Since writing about how important specificity and accountability are to me in a collaboration, I’ve been thinking about refining this idea a little.

Although I tend to appoint myself as the Designated Worrier of any project, the truth is that any collaborative effort is dependent on mutual accountability.  Power does not flow unilaterally and may not even be well-defined.  We may not have rigid lines of reporting, such as those seen in a hierarchical organizational chart, but it’s going to difficult to achieve our desired outcomes unless we all “report to” each other.

This reminds me of some the closing words of the United States’ Declaration of Independence:

“…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Now the folks collaborating on the Nonprofit Management Resources project are in no way putting as much on the line as our founding forbears did in creating a new nation.  However, a collaborative project calls for us deliver on the trust we put in each other.  Moreover, as George McCully (the author of Philanthropy Reconsidered) points out, the language of the Declaration of Independence was derived from the pledges made by members of benevolent fraternities and philanthropic societies of the day.  In our modest way, we have a benevolent and philanthropic undertaking for the greater good, so perhaps we can also make use of the language and the principles of mutuality that inspired the Second Continental Congress, when we think about our reporting structure.

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