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Collaboration and partnership

In Phill Butler’s book Well Connected, Butler points out that what attracts people and keeps them committed to a partnership are 1) great vision and 2) seeing results.17 According to Butler, once you have a compelling reason to work together and a desire for strong results, you must then build trust. “All durable, effective partnerships are built on trust and whole relationships.”18 There must be trust between the people, the processes and the plans for effective partnership to develop. Leading a movement is significantly different from leading a company that doesn’t have a lot of stakeholders. It’s similar, perhaps, to leading a modern university. Butler emphasizes:

Spiritual breakthroughs are not a game of guns and money. No human effort, expenditure of resources, or brilliant strategy will alone produce lasting spiritual change. Our partnerships must be informed and empowered by God’s Holy Spirit in order to be effective. The challenges of relationships, cultural and theological differences, technical and strategic issues, and sustainability can only be dealt with in a process rooted in prayer.19

Butler also highlights practical considerations for managing the actual partnership: Developing clear and measurable goals, setting a realistic time frame for action, putting in place sustainable personnel to see the project through, and fostering ownership of the vision that grows over time.20

visionSynergy CEO Kärin Primuth, in a recent article in Evangelical Missions Quarterly, points to movements in the Muslim world that began with Western leaders now being led by indigenous leaders. Primuth notes that these multi-cultural networks are a demonstration of biblical unity:

Networks offer a context to build trust across cultures and to genuinely listen and learn from our partners in the Majority World. They provide a platform for dialogue with our brothers and sisters in the Global South to mutually define what the North American Church can contribute to today’s mission movement.21

Cube theory and systems of leadership In Mark Avery’s dissertation Beyond Interdependency: An identity based perspective on interorganizational mission, Avery found that a critical factor to effective interorganizational leadership was governance across multiple organizations. As agencies worked together, the key was how they coordinated their efforts.22 Avery states that “the [CUBE Theory] model provides a coherent language for analyzing eight distinct coordination schemes along (at least) three generic axes.”23

Figure 1 – CUBE THEORY (from Mark Avery)

cube theory mark avery figure1

In a personal interview, Avery told me that the model is simply a grid-group model of communication across different cultures.24 “Partnership is the solution to a problem many people don’t feel or don’t have. [It] helps transform the process rather than a cause [and is] much more about shared responsibility about how things work in a particular context.”25

Avery describes the key finding for leading movements as “A network…a high voice, low power, adaptive form native to an extra group environment. Social norms, absence of formalized boundaries, voluntary involvement, and centrality of trust are some characteristic factors of this scheme of coordination.”26

Asian Access has done initial research in this area. Executive Vice President Elliott Snuggs interviewed Kn Moy of Masterworks, who was doing research for the Lausanne Movement. Moy contrasted the differences between the Arab Spring and Al Qaeda. Both were powerful movements led by volunteer forces. Moy pointed out that the key difference between the short-lived Arab Spring and the sustained movement of Al Qaeda involved Al Qaeda having a small core at its center who were the keepers of the vision, mission and values. Moy suggested that Lausanne and Asian Access were more illustrative of movements than they were of traditional mission organizations.27

To gain insight into how CUBE Theory might operate within a networked organization, Snuggs used the model below from Asian Access colleague Takeshi Takazawa (see Figure 2). Given that the Asian Access Community is a network of pastors and NGO leaders from a number of different nations, communication practices have to adapt based on the different cultures and leadership ideals of each country. Add to this the global body of Christ interacting with each of these members of the Asian Access Community, and the complexities become enormous.

Figure 2a: CORE – NETWORK – CLOUD (concept from Takeshi Takazawa)28

Figure 2a: A2 core network cloud 2018

Figure 2b: CORE – NETWORK – CLOUD close-up view

Figure 2b: A2 core network cloud 2018 detail

Snuggs then addresses leadership within the system:

An example might be Wikipedia. Anyone can be a part of Wikipedia as a user of the information or a creator of content. But there are values and ensuing “rules” that a core of people ruthlessly enforce. And many people who do this are not paid staff. They are a very small percentage of the Wikipedia movement who spend a huge amount of their time editing and reviewing entries. They do it because they are committed to the vision, mission and values of Wikipedia. They are a part of the core which keeps Wikipedia relevant. And they are enhanced by organizational-like units of paid staff.29

Mike Breen captures this concept from a spiritual perspective, stating, “I can assure you that if you look at the great movements of the past (whether in business, politics, societal change, etc.), what you will find in the middle is a group of people truly living as an extended family.”30 Breen’s findings on leading missional movements dovetail with Jesus’ approach of investing life into a few key disciples and encouraging them to reproduce the dynamism that he gives them in mission.

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Joe Handley

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