Thinking about how we think about collaboration

David Relph
2 min readJul 9, 2020


In this video (submitted to a OneTeamGov call for submissions for microcourses on collaborative leadership and published here) I talk about what I think I have learned about how to approach collaboration. Id love to hear what you think:)

Effective collaboration doesn’t happen by accident — and often the conditions that determine success or otherwise are deeply personal. They are about how we as people approach the prospect of collaboration and this often requires us to challenge ourselves and the way we have been working — often for whole careers.

I’m interested in three things that help set the conditions for effective collaboration — and I share them in this short video. They are:

  1. Helping people to understand what they mean when they use the term ‘system’ and to consider their relationship with that system. Specifically, the importance of people seeing themselves as active participants in that system as opposed to subjects of it. Activists, not commentators.
  2. Getting to grips with the very different ways in which people conceptualise — and therefore approach — collaboration. From the personal (and often selfish) to the societal motivations for working together.
  3. Helping people understand their relationship with the three layers of leadership in any system or place. These are: the structural, which is necessary but not sufficient; the emotional, which determines our real level of engagement, and; the conceptual, to which we are often blind but which often traps us in ways of working that we know are ineffective.

I’d welcome any comments on this video, and would love to hear from anyone who is interested in exploring — and maybe working together on — these issues. My email is

Thanks to for stimulating and sharing this thinking :)

thumbnail photo by Freysteinn G. Jonsson on Unsplash — to whom many thanks



David Relph

I work to make places better for the people who live in them. Radically Collaborative Leadership is how this happens. I write about this.