Alone We Can Do So Little, Together We Can Do So Much

If I woke up tomorrow and was granted magical powers to make the world a better place, I would ask everyone to sign up for a course on how to collaborate.

Collaboration is the process of two or more people, entities or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal.

Simple concept, right?

It’s also necessary to achieve anything in life.

The poet John Donne said that “no man is an island.” (No woman is either).

The phrase means that no one is truly self-sufficient, everyone must rely on the company and comfort of others to thrive.

Donne’s poem against isolationism was written in the 17th century, so this is not exactly new ground that we are plowing.

But glance at the news these days and you’ll see a failure to collaborate just about everywhere.

Congress and our body politic are divided, not only between Democrats and Republicans, but between moderates and progressives, Trumpers and never Trumpers.

Oddly, the factions and sides need each other to get anything done. But the notion of collaboration, cooperation and compromise is hopelessly lost amidst acrimony and grievance.

As we speak, the world’s leaders are meeting in Scotland to discuss climate change. The poor countries of our world need money (lots of it) from the rich countries to save the planet we all occupy and rely on for survival. But collaboration is elusive and so our planet continues to cook.

The scorecard looks grim: we can’t collaborate to defeat a virus; we can’t collaborate to fix our crumbling infrastructure and we can’t collaborate to meet the challenge of other nation’s conspiring to supplant our role as the world’s pre-eminent superpower. We are too busy fighting each other.


None of these observations are new, prescient, or insightful. But I would argue that things are getting worse not better and that our inability to collaborate makes it nearly impossible to solve problems or seize opportunities.

This is a hyperlocal blog and so I can’t help but apply my observations to my own hometown of Delray Beach.

In short, this city was a place that used to work. We were cooking my friends. Projects got built, initiatives were launched, visions and plans came to life and a place was transformed.

A once dying and dormant downtown became vibrant and successful; new parks were built, others improved, an abandoned school surrounded by a rusted chain link fence became a cultural beacon for the region and the community dug in to create programs and improve neighborhoods. A blighted Second Avenue became Pineapple Grove, events brought fun and commerce to the city and civic pride blossomed.

In a word; collaboration.

People and organizations worked together.

In every room and at every table where decisions were made, the implicit rule was “put your ego aside, bury your personal differences: Delray comes first.”

I found the community to be largely welcoming and mostly inclusive.  Yes, there were some rooms where I wasn’t welcome (how many times did I hear the words
“damn New Yorkers”) and I know of the city’s fraught racial history (and present, I’m sorry to say). All that did was make me and others want to get involved to make things better.

There were efforts—albeit imperfect— to acknowledge and attempt to improve race relations and civic engagement. People really tried. I believe those efforts were sincere.

Despite some very real headwinds, there was collaboration. City government worked with neighborhood associations, city departments worked with each other and other agencies, the Chamber of Commerce was at the table and so were the key non-profits. Citizens had ample opportunities to weigh in—town hall meetings, charrettes, visioning exercises, goal setting sessions, resident academies, citizen police academies, neighborhood summits, teen summits and the list goes on and on.

Not everyone liked each other.  But by and large—people showed up and Delray came first. Progress was made.

But progress ends when collaboration dies.

When egos clash, when feuds are allowed to get in the way of the mission—the mission gets lost. Eventually those feuds cloud and then obscure the mission until people forget all about it. Settling the score becomes the mission.

And guess what? In politics—unlike war—you never really vanquish the opposition. You may win or lose an election, but your opponent doesn’t go away, they don’t say they are wrong or stop criticizing you. In some cases, they don’t even acknowledge that they lost. And so the cycle continues.

The job of leadership is to find a way forward; to cling to the mission and remind us about the bigger picture and there’s always a bigger picture.

So if you are a Congressman or a Senator, it’s not about hanging a loss on the opposing team, it’s about finding a way to fix our crumbling infrastructure and heal our planet. If you are a mayor or a city commissioner, it’s about finding a way to make sure your city’s assets are protected and enhanced and that new ones are developed so that long after your gone your community is positioned to succeed. It certainly isn’t about wiping an organization off the face of the Earth because it contains a nest of people who didn’t support your campaigns. (See Square, Old School).

These are simple concepts that are being lost. We are at great peril unless and until they are rediscovered.

We need to insist on collaboration, or we’re done. It’s just that simple.


Don’t Miss Heart of the Square…

The kickoff to “Arts Season” Begins 6 p.m. Friday, November 5th at Old School Square’s Cornell Museum with a very special event, “The Heart Of The Square”.

Old School Square has touched every corner of the Delray Beach community over the years through their tireless efforts and passion for the arts.

“Heart Of The Square” captures these experiences through a truly inspirational collective of immersive art installations and displays that highlight how Old School Square has been the heart of Delray Beach for over 30 years.

The highlights of the evening will include the “Heart Of The Square” exhibition at the Cornell Art Museum, live music, activities for the kids and a many more surprises.

The evening will be capped off with the unveiling of a new art installation created by world renowned artist and Delray Beach local Jeff Whyman.

The event is free and family friendly.

This is a good chance to relive Delray history and support Old School Square. As readers know, after 32 years, the City Commission in a 3-2 vote, decided to terminate the non-profit’s lease. But despite that kick in the teeth, the non-profit has vowed that the show must go on and the community must be served, proving that there’s a big difference between a community based non-profit and a management company.

Please show your support, OSS needs all of us. And we need OSS.




  1. I love the simplicity of the meaning of “collaboration”. Working together for shared goals and purposes….. simple yet powerful. It was the “secret sauce” that made the difference in so many ways in a community that was trying (really hard) to become something different, unique and sustainable. It worked! But now it is time to look for the recipe again and put a bottle on every table in town to season our discussions and dialog.

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