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Working Together for a Better Reston

This week, I'm talking about ways in which our community groups can collaborate... and how that collaboration benefits Reston.

Together we'll stand
Divided we'll fall
Come on now, people
Let's get on the ball
And work together

- Canned Heat

If you read last week's post about , you may recall that one goal I mentioned was to strengthen RCA's relationships with other community organizations.  As I explained in that post, collaboration can benefit all of us:

[T]here are a lot of community organizations in Reston.  Each of us has our own mission, but we all share a common goal: working to make Reston a better place.  Beyond that general goal, there are many more specific goals that some of us share.  Why should we duplicate efforts when we can work together?  We all have finite quantities of money, manpower, and time, and by joining forces on projects of common interest, we can maximize those scarce resources.

Since I wrote that post, I've had occasion to think about the ways collaboration can benefit both RCA and Reston as a whole.  A couple of recent events have driven home the importance of these relationships.  In order for RCA to best serve Reston, it's crucial for us to seek out opportunities to work with other organizations for our common good.

As an example, look at RCA's recent .  We needed to devise a strategy for holding our elections online, and we needed to do so quickly and cheaply.  We couldn't afford to hire an outside vendor, so whatever plan we chose, we'd have to design and implement it ourselves.

Fortunately, we have a couple of tech-savvy Board members, and they were able to devise a way to handle our balloting with the use of the online tool Survey Monkey.  Only one problem: the free version of Survey Monkey wasn't sophisticated enough to do what we needed, and the pay version would take a significant bite out of our treasury.

Fortunately, we had a friend to lend a hand: one of our former committees, Sustainable Reston.  Our sister organization already had a paid account with Survey Monkey, one which provided all the tools we needed to create our ballot.  Happily, Sustainable Reston graciously permitted us gratis access to their account.  This removed a key barrier to holding our elections online.

I am grateful that Sustainable Reston stepped up to help us out in a moment of need.  As Sustainable Reston President Diane Blust said to me, "We’re facing some tough times in the next few years; the only way to get through will be to pull together."  I couldn't agree more, Diane.

I saw another fine example of community collaboration through RCA's .  This fall, RAC will be holding a community forum entitled "Accessibility: A Call to Action".  The forum will update the community on RAC's recent work, especially the changes to the Virginia building code proposed by the HJR 648 work group, in which RAC chair Ken Fredgren participated.  The forum aims to build community support for the code changes and the tax-credit bill drafted by the work group.  We hope that by building community support, we will be encourage the Commonwealth to adopt the changes.

Taking the idea of collaboration to heart, Ken has reached out to several Reston organizations whose members might be interested in accessibility.  And he has succeeded in recruiting a number of co-sponsors, including RA, RCC, Reston Interfaith, and Reston for a Lifetime. 

I'm excited about that list of co-sponsors for two reasons.  First, all of those organizations will be able to promote the forum, and so we should have an easier time getting the word out to Restonians about the event.  (RA is also hosting the forum, as they have meeting space that RAC and RCA lack.)  But perhaps more importantly, the list of co-sponsors demonstrates the widespread community commitment to the cause of accessibility.  It's inspiring to see so many organizations standing with RAC and helping advance the message of the forum.  I know Ken is as excited about their support as I am.

Making common cause on common issues is vital.  With so many organizations in Reston speaking up on a wide variety of issues, we can turn into a cacophony and drown each other out.  Or, we can join together and sing in one, much stronger voice.  Obviously, we don't all agree on every issue.  But on those issues where we do agree, we can be much more effective if we speak out and speak up together.

No one makes it in this world entirely on their own.  We all rely in some way on the help of others.  What's true for us as individuals is also true for organizations.  If an organization remains insular and doesn't reach outside itself, that organization can only accomplish so much.  We can be far more powerful and effective if we collaborate.  As Diane Blust said, we're going to have a lot of challenges in the coming years, and we'll need to stand together to deal with them.

Whether we collaborate by pooling resources and assisting each other with specific tasks, or by joining together to speak up on issues we all care about, we benefit as organizations when we work together, and Reston benefits too.  In the coming year, I'm going to be on the lookout for opportunities for our community groups to join forces and better serve our citizens.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ken Fredgren August 02, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Thanks for the recognition of accessibility, Colin. Reston is blessed - exceptionally so - by the quality and quantity of its several service organizations. The cross-fertilization - the sharing - achieved by working together is fulfilling, gratifying and productive. The community forum will be held Wednesday, October 3, and we're looking forward to it!
Colin Mills August 02, 2012 at 05:09 PM
You're quite welcome, Ken. And I completely agree with your comment about how fulfilling and productive it is when our service organizations work together. I join you in looking forward to the forum on October 3rd. Restonians, mark your calendars!

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