British Columbia is in new political territory. This week the BC Greens and BC NDP political parties announced that they will collaborate to govern the province for the next four years. Minority and coalition governments are my favourite kind of political leadership because the arrangement forces politicians away from the antagonistic and partisan structure of the legislature and towards a more collaborative and ideally representative approach to governance. Such an approach is preferable for real community building. The agreement struck by Andrew Weaver and John Horgan is a unique demonstration of collaboration. Here are five collaboration lessons from minority governments.

Find common ground

Throughout the negotiations that have been taking place over the past month, the BC Greens probed both the BC Liberals and NDP to determine where they saw the most overlap around policy objectives. Establishing areas of agreement or common ground is one of the most important first steps for successful collaboration. In the case of the NDP and Greens, there was broad agreement on the importance of campaign finance reform, early childhood education/childcare and environmental issues such as blocking the Kinder Morgan pipeline. There was also agreement that something could be done around electoral reform, which is a key Green demand that would significantly alter the electoral landscape in the province. In fact on just about every major platform issue, there was far more overlap between the Greens and the NDP than the Greens and the BC Liberals. Identifying and building off areas of commonality in any sort of collaboration is the first step to building a successful partnership.

Listen to your stakeholders

There will always be different perspectives on issues. In the case of BC’s new minority government, the Greens faced significant internal pressure to avoid supporting the current BC Liberal government. Pressure from their supporters, donors as well as many third party organizations – particularly environmental groups – who were concerned with the BC Liberal’s stance on Site C, the Kinder Morgan Pipeline and the Premier’s aggressive vision of LNG expansion. Such feedback undoubtedly pushed Weaver and his caucus to move towards the NDP rather than the BC Liberals. Consider what your clients and/or colleagues are expecting as an outcome of your collaboration and ensure that the team is working towards such goals.

Achieve small, quick wins

There is some healthy skepticism about how well the arrangement between the Greens and the NDP will play out. In order to foster trust among constituents as well as stakeholders from political and bureaucratic teams in the BC government, the NDP and Greens will need to demonstrate their ability to collaborate quickly. Research shows that experiencing daily, incremental progress inspires confidence and enhances people’s mood, too. In just over 500 days Lester B. Pearson’s minority government (his Liberals were supported by the NDP) resulted in the introduction of Canada’s health care system, the Canadian flag, and the Canada Pension Plan. Sure, such a timeline for change isn’t tremendously quick, but we can see that a precedent has been set for achieving progress without a majority government.

Embrace compromise

The BC Green’s two stated main objectives included campaign finance reform and electoral reform without putting the idea to a referendum first. Both objectives were seen as crucial to cementing the party’s electoral gains and allowing broader representation of Green voters in future elections. The NDP had also been calling for campaign finance reform because BC’s wild west, Banana Republic finance laws were see as unfairly benefiting the BC Liberal party’s deluge of wealthy and corporate donors. While the BC NDP was lukewarm in terms electoral reform, this is an issue that warranted compromise in order for them to have a shot at governing. The lesson here is to not just look at your own interests, but to incorporate your broader community’s interests in ways that reflect the best perspectives from the team. 

Deliver radical candor

Radical candor is a concept popularized by Kim Scott and it means challenging directly and caring personally in order to be a better leader and also human being. Check out this great podcast about the idea. I had to turn off one of the live streamed debates because it was clear that Andrew Weaver and John Horgan probably didn’t care too deeply about each other, but they were being very, very enthusiastic about being direct (not to mention loud). Human beings want – and deserve – our leaders to treat each other with kindness and assertiveness, which I hope is something that continues among Weaver and Horgan in the coming weeks and months. Such things are critical for effective collaboration in every kind of community and it’s very elusive in the realm of politics today.

Photo: The Nelson Daily

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