3 Steps to Foster Collaboration in Your OrganizationPublished July 9, 2018
The threads of history are woven together by the incredible stories of women and men who created remarkable change in our world and inspired us to believe the impossible could be possible.
When we hear these stories, we often feel something stir within our chests, and we begin to wonder, “How can I create real change in the world?”
As I have wrestled through that question, there is one story I have returned to over and over as a roadmap to living a life of impact.
William Wilberforce lived in the early 1800s and was an English politician, philanthropist, theologian, and a leader of the movement to end the slave trade in England. He was also a man who loved God so deeply and knew Him so intimately, he was driven to devote his life to fulfilling the divine calling placed on his life.
During the time of William Wilberforce, England had torn over 11 million slaves from their homeland, packed them onto small ships, abused them, beat them, treated them as cargo, and then sold them as slaves in order to make a profit.
William Wilberforce as its centre of gravity, powerfully bound together by shared moral and spiritual values, by religious mission and social activism, by love for each other, and by marriage.
But this all ended because an unlikely group of individuals were used by God in a remarkable way.
Although many people have heard the name of William Wilberforce, he wasn’t the only one leading this fight. As we journey deeper into this story, we discover the radical tribe of world-changers who linked arms to abolish the slave trade together. They were called, “The Clapham Sect.”
There was in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a network of friends and families in England, with William Wilberforce as its centre of gravity, powerfully bound together by shared moral and spiritual values, by religious mission and social activism, by love for each other, and by marriage. Their greatest and most celebrated achievement was the abolition of the slave trade and then slavery itself throughout the British Empire and beyond.1
Wilberforce is the name we most often read about in our history books and watch on the movie screen. He never attempted to abolish slavery on his own. Rather, he intentionally gathered a tribe of passionate activists known as the Clapham Sect, who would partner together to create real change.
The Clapham Sect was a group of social reformers in the Church of England. Because of their unity, their commitment to each other, their compelling vision and their faithful collaboration, the world was never the same.
Collaboration is one of the most important elements of creating positive impact in our world.
As leaders in our world today, collaboration may be more important than ever. If we desire to see change in our culture, we must make an intentional commitment to collaboration.
Let’s examine the workings of the Clapham Sect to identify three ways we can foster collaboration in our organizations.
1) Work to Establish Unity
Wilberforce… wanted to found a society, with the highest backing possible, to improve the morality of British life, through the courts, local government, censorship, legislation, prison reform, by every means possible. There was huge support for the society, across quite a broad spectrum. It was not just an evangelical movement. By making this his first major campaign, Wilberforce won the support of a powerful coalition.2
How often do we miss out on the chance to use our leadership to create positive impact because we are unwilling to reach across lines of division? If we want to foster collaboration on our teams to maximize our positive impact in the world, we must intentionally work to establish unity.
2) Be Willing to Sacrifice
It was costly for them. They gave it, in different ways and to different degrees, their lives, their money, their careers, their time and their health. Few people can make a more persuasive claim to have been doing the work of God in the world.3
Collaboration is birthed out of sacrifice. We must sacrifice time, energy, pride and our own personal agendas. Great leaders must make sacrifices to collaborate with others if they desire to see change take place in our world.
3) Craft a Compelling Vision
The abolitionists made a tactical decision to confine themselves to the abolition of the slave trade, and until that was accomplished to avoid even talking about the abolition of slavery itself.4
People don’t buy into a complicated vision. They buy into a clear and compelling mission. If we want to see greater collaboration in our organizations, our churches and our world, we must craft a compelling vision that will motivate others to partner with us.
The Clapham Sect had a big vision to abolish the slave trade, inviting people of all backgrounds to join them in the pursuit of this compelling goal.
The heroes of our history rarely accomplished their great feats alone. Rather, they collaborated with individuals who made it possible to accomplish what often seemed impossible. They chose unity, sacrifice and vision, and this led them to truly change the culture and the world.
Which of the three elements of collaboration do you need to focus on in this season of your leadership?
1,2,3,4 — Quotes taken from The Clapham Sect: How Wilberforce’s Circle Transformed Britain by Stephen Tomkins.
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About the Author
Hannah Gronowski is the Founder and CEO of Generation Distinct , a nonprofit that exists to empower young leaders to discover the wrong they were born to make right, leading them to experience who Jesus really is. She has a passion to use her voice to empower others to become leaders God can use to create real change in the world. She is also a speaker and an author, with her first book releasing in 2020 with NavPress Publishers. She has spoken at conferences, churches, college campuses, and youth events around the country.