A Bookish Look at Collegiality – Collegiality Part II

Makes things turn

1 + 1 = 3

Collegiality is the heart of professionalism

Last week on Twitter dosomething.org challenged charities to stop chanting.  We agree. We thought we’d take a bookish look at collegiality, what exactly it is and where it can it take us?

Collegiality: what are they talking about?

Put plainly, ‘collegiality’ is the relationship between contemporaries. It’s the fruit of one person’s own efforts and knowledge of a field, combined with the knowledge of others working on a common purpose. Its etymology tells us that the term comes from the word “collegium” which is a synonym of “guild.” While the concept of a guild is sometimes associated with clandestine activity, the practice of collegiality truly emerged from academia. Today it is – by degrees – a practice that is part and parcel of all organisations and industries.

You charity folk are a soft bunch

To understand this topic, we’ve looked further a field to see how other people have dealt with it.  In the realm of the medical profession, Nicholas T. Kouchoukos has discussed backstabbing between doctors. A principal of being a medical practicioner is to embrace and share knowledge in an active manner, however Kouchoukos has seen instances where this has not happened. He documents instances of surgeons expressing themselves in news media which has interrupted the principle of collegiality in two ways. Firstly, the use of news media is an unhelpful way to convey important messages. Secondly, the use of news media often frames stories in an emotionally charged way, rather than a critical and constructive way, which in turn exacerbates any problems between contemporaries in the field. In this example we see that being a high performing professional alone is not enough to progress your field and that there is another element; a social, collegial component which must be nurtured beyond the nuts-and-bolts of professional work.

1 + 0 = ?

As an optimistic niche charity, we acknowledge that the social component of our work must be balanced by objectivity. Walter Humes talks about collegiality in the context of the profession of teaching. He states, “collegiality is the heart of professionalism,” as it allows for a reflective, co-operative approach.  In his outline there is the need to separate between the feel-good “soft” collegiality and commit to “tough” collegiality – which involves the practice of trust, the act of critical thinking and the notion that by being honest about our weaknesses – we all have the chance of improving.

What it all means to us

In our experience collegiality is best expressed through Stephen Covey’s sixth habit. That habit promotes the idea that, ‘by working together we can achieve more’.  1 + 1 = 3.  What this means for a little charitable trust is that through collegiality we’ll be creating better outcomes for our beneficiaries.  Our project seeks to support others in the NGO sector, acknowledge their efforts and commitment, share ideas and celebrate the work we’re all doing. Only through taking the time to listen to the stories of others can we do this. Here’s just a couple of things we do:

  • Encourage our donors to questions us;
  • Seek conversations with a diverse range of people working in other NGOs;
  • Practice ‘tough’ collegagility eg. Regularly questioning our own beneficiary project – ‘what’s not working?’; and
  • Developing our learning and networking opportunities through the UK Small Charities Commission.
Works Cited
  • Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 2004. Simon & Schuster Ltd, n.d.
  • Humes, Walter. The meaning of collegiality. March 2007. http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=2354456 (accessed September 24, 2011).
  • Kouchoukos, Nicholas T. What is Happening to Collegiality? May 2001. http://www.ctsnet.org/sections/newsandviews/inmyopinion/articles/article-42.html (accessed September 24, 2011).
  • Wikipedians. “Collegiality.” Wikipedia. September 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collegiality (accessed September 24, 2011).


One Response to “A Bookish Look at Collegiality – Collegiality Part II”
  1. Thanks a lot for the blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.

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