When you walk down the street in most parts of Guatemala, you don’t see people with headphones in their ears. You’ll seldom find someone walking and staring down at their phone. The people won’t be walking fast. And you’ll hear a chorus of “buenos dias”. People will be greeting you, stopping to talk to their neighbors and the guy who is making orange juice on the street. At least, that’s the way it is most of the time.
Parker Palmer wrote in his book Healing the Heart of Democracy about the threat of the globes current trend towards individualism. He writes, “the greater our tendency toward individualism, the weaker our communal fabric; the weaker our communal fabric, the more vulnerable we are to despotic power.” Individualism is now the greatest threat to democracy, and it is worth every ounce of our energy to deconstruct it so that more people are lead free, joy-filled lives. ALG holds that collaboration is a key antidote to individualism and this belief influences the way we design our programs immensely.
There is no end to historical examples of times when people have bonded together in collaboration to create change. “Strength in numbers” we say, “stronger together” we chant, “the people united will never be defeated” we sing, “teamwork makes the dream work”, we joke. The knowledge of our power as a collective is in our bones, passed down from our ancestors, but somehow we’ve left the knowledge behind and chosen to believe we can do it all on our own — that everyone else is an “other” who can’t be trusted.
ALG’s flagship program, Diplomado en Liderazgo y Colaboración (Certificate in Leadership and Collaboration), was born of our founders concern with the prevalence of individualism both in people and organizations. It is a six-month long leadership development program that gathers thirty leaders from diverse cultures and career fields and equips them with tools and practices that enhance their constructive impact in their communities. Woven between and among lectures and workshops on different leadership skills, is different exercises which ALG designs or utilizes to create opportunities for the leaders to forge connections with one another — for them to bond and become vulnerable with one another. This intention is one of the key factors which sets the ALG Certificate program apart from other programs out there. Leaders enter our program strangers, and leave committed to helping each other develop their projects and supporting each other in whatever way possible. Graduates are immediately connected to a growing network of leaders across Central America who have been through the ALG Certificate program and live to make the world a better place than they found it. We are working to weave a strong social fabric, one that can resist despotic power, by creating opportunities for our leaders to remember they are members of one another.
This is the first post in a series we want to introduce as Herramientas para Colaboración (Tools for Collaboration), which will share the specific ways we facilitate collaboration and encourage the shift away from individualism and towards community. We hope you enjoy it.