Collaborating / Coordinating

Collaborating 101 – Accompaniment

Woman holding a rooster accompanied by a young attendant.
Library of Congress Collection

Accompaniment is gaining recognition as a means for working with others to help them develop skills and capacities. What I explore here is the relationship between someone who has done an activity before, who then accompanies a person for whom the activity or skill is new. One could call it a form of leadership, but in a style that is characterized by learning and growth for both the more experienced person and the one with less experience. There may well be a power imbalance, but if carried out with humility, with a willingness and procedure for mutual and reciprocal learning, then the power imbalance can actually be empowering for both individuals. One learns how to better accompany and develops deeper understanding of the dynamics related to the skill or activity, whereas the other gains increasing capacity related to the target activity, and perhaps even how to accompany others. It would seem therefore that only the amount of learning each person would gain with respect to the activity and the process of accompaniment would vary in proportion. It wouldn’t, nor shouldn’t, be exclusive to one role or the other.

As a process, there are a lot of dynamics to consider, but rough guidelines would entail the following:

A) Do the activity or skill yourself. How do you expect to accompany someone into the arena if you don’t have at least a basic understanding of what’s entailed? And keep up with the literature. Studying guidance and the most recent learnings from the broader field helps keep you at the forefront.

B) Accompany the friend. Seriously, be a friend, not an overlord. They won’t come back if you are haughty and self-centered. The learning has to be focused on the activity and show that both of you have something to learn. They should realize you don’t have all the answers, and they have valuable contributions to the relationship and determination in how the activity is carried out.

C) In doing the accompaniment, you as the more experienced person will need to have your own learning process in place, before you actually engage in the activity.

    1. Plan – determine what you want to achieve with the other person and how you will approach the task.
    2. Act – accompany the person in the activity
    3. Reflect – after each session, assess how it went, determine what you learned and what the other person learned, and then plan anew for the next session.

D) As you accompany more and more individuals, periodically bring them together as a group for reflection and additional training. Discussions should be based on how they perform the activity, what challenges they face, what support is needed, what they’re learning and strengthening existing collaborations or developing new ones.

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