Thursday, February 18, 2010

Co-Creation vs. Collaboration

As I begin anew with the 1Mandala, a new word is slipping in to my vocabulary. Where before the project was all about "collaboration", now it is about "co-creation". I have been struggling for over a year to discern the difference. I am just now coming to some realizations.

First, there is the matter of differing cultural understandings.

As a Canadian growing up, 'to collaborate' was a nice thing. The thought brings me back to elementary school, colouring in cartoon pictures with my friends. Collaboration meant to work together with others towards a common goal.

I wasn't very good at this honestly. I thought I was a pretty hot stuff with a crayon-- so I would end up finishing the picture because I figured I could do it best. Later on in highschool I blossomed into a monumental individualist. I tried to do everything alone and when others were involved, I sought to wrest draconian control. Thank goodness I learned some hard lessons. I gradually became conscious that working with others is not only a lot more effective, but more way more healthy.

In France however, I also gradually became conscious that the word "collaborate" has some serious negative connotations. Ask a Frenchman to collaborate with you, and you will spark an ire that has been simmering for four decades. Les Collaborateurs were of course the French who worked with the Germans during the WWII occupation of France. They collaborated with the Germans and betrayed their county. The resentment continues to this day and contaminates any positive meaning the word 'collaboration' may have had in French.

The French translation of the 1Mandala quickly ran into problems as we attempted to communicate this concept. Conversely, the same problem occurred in German-- the word "collaboriert" is hardly used anymore because of the painful war memories that are associated with it. Instead the word 'zuzammen arbeit' is used, which literally means 'together working'.

That is a little closer to the meaning of "co-create".

In fact, this war legacy that reamains in French and German is the key to the distinction between the two words. "Collaborate" implies working together towards a goal. That goal can of course be good, and bad. But, importantly, it is a goal that unites and focuses the working together.

Co-creation is different. The 'co' emphasizes working together. However, 'Creation' is not shackled to a goal. It implies an unfolding, a development. Yes, you are working towards something, but 'creation' emphasizes the process. Indeed, creation is process! It is the means by which the goal is acheived.

In fact, if we get existential, 'creation' is the very act of being. Neil Donald Walsh writes about how every moment we are creating, whether we are conscious of it or not. The more we are conscious of the process, the more intentional our creations, and the faster our manifestations. And if we unite together consciously to co-create-- wow! The fact we are giving this concept a word adds another layer of meaning to the word. Co-Creation implies a certain consciousness of the principles involved in manifesting the shared intention.

It is a great word to describe the myriad of exciting comming togethers and movements that are now arising on the planet as we expand and celebrate our awakening consciousness. It is a great word to use for the 1Mandala project.


Some photos from a collaborative-- no sorry, a co-creative-- mandala making project with 300 students in Smithers, BC, Canada. It's pretty spectacular what we can learn from kids.

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