Erin Sanborn

People have always come together to reach a goal and solve problems that are larger than themselves. Most of us find ourselves collaborating with others throughout our lives. At its essence, collaboration essentially means the ability to work with others to solve complex problems, reach a desired result or make a dream come true. Through collaboration we increase our ability to see the connections between elements in a system, build our willingness and methods to work together, find new partnerships and relationships.

The entrepreneurial spirit is required to build these thriving local economies. In Taos County, the Taos Entrepreneurial Network (TEN, www.TaosTen.org) was founded on the need to connect entrepreneurs with people and resources required to succeed in their businesses. TEN has cultivated professional services and provides these to individuals seeking guidance in starting or growing their business. The professional volunteers at TEN match businesses with needed resources to expedite success. Whether the business needs customers, loans or marketing services, a TEN meeting is the place to begin to meet others of like mind and needs. TEN is a collaboration ensuring the systems surrounding an entrepreneur are working together.

Collaborations also encourage reciprocal learning. When we deeply listen to others, we will probably be changed by another’s ideas and values. The TEN’s mission is to improve the economic well-being of the citizens of Taos County. Many entrepreneurs today are committed to a triple bottom line—the balance between environmental stewardship, social equity and economic opportunity. As these entrepreneurs seek the support of TEN, reciprocal learning is shifting the meaning of what economic well-being means and how to obtain it.

Taos Community Solar

Another attribute of collaboration can be leading change in a system against all odds. Many people in Taos County have an audacious goal of meeting all of Taos’ energy needs from local, renewable sources by 2023. Yet renewable energy generation is limited to a 5-percent cap of total production because of current energy producer and distributor contracts. A very creative collaboration between a local nonprofit, an installer, an electrical cooperative, a regional operator, a public charter school and the community was formed to make progress towards the 2023 goal despite the 5-percent limit. This group of people and organizations has installed its first community solar array. A community solar array is a group of solar panels that anyone can purchase and receive all the benefits of solar energy: clean energy production, tax credits, no maintenance, etc. This unique collaboration is playing its part to facilitate reaching the goal of 100-percent renewable energy generation in Taos County by 2023. Facilitation is the art of guiding the process of people working together and is another important aspect of collaboration.

Taos Food and Agriculture

Lastly, people involved in the food and agricultural system in Taos County have been shaping creative collaborations for a very long time and have recognized that future collaborations must embody the above qualities for success and more. Only through new, mature and sophisticated collaborations can a community ensure a fundamental shift in a whole system. Any food and agricultural collaboration will necessitate building on past successes, rethinking the food and agricultural system, learning together, being changed through our interactions and involving stakeholders who may never have participated before.

One new and sophisticated collaborative effort underway is embedded within the vision for the Taos Local Food Farm Café, Bakery and Market (www.taoslocalfood.com) at the Overland Ranch. The people building this project have over 12 years of experience running a Community Supported Agricultural farm (www.cerrovistafarm.com) and mentoring new farmers. They have a vision of an integrated food and agricultural food system. The Taos Local Food Farm Café, Bakery and Market is an anchor business that supports many local farmers and value-added producers. This initiative is reminding the community that food production and entrepreneurial endeavors go hand-in-hand with land preservation. Community foundations are invited to partner with land trusts, farmers, the community and entrepreneurial networks in order to preserve this farmland in perpetuity, thereby sustaining multiple agricultural-based businesses. This is a substantial collaboration, and could be what the future of collaboration in Taos County needs to become.

Collaborations continue to grow and nurture mutually beneficial relationships in local communities. What is happening in Taos County is only a small example. Collaboration is unique because it clarifies our common goals and vision and then facilitates the process by which we arrive in our future. This exquisite balance of ends and means leads to sustainable community economic development, localizing our economies and reinvigorating our cultural and environmental well-being. Collaboration has the potential to bring prosperity to all and enable us to thrive.

 

Erin Sanborn (esanborn@skeo.com) is senior associate with Skeo Solutions, whose mission is excellence and innovation in pursuit of environmental stewardship, social equity and economic opportunity. 575.770.2991.

 

 

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