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SERES 1st. Collaborative Lab

by Javier Borrayo


Collaboration, and all it entails, is a very appealing concept – bringing together a diverse group of people who will put their ideas and energies together to co-create something new. Real collaboration requires establishing equality, where we see each other as indivuduals and not a title, condition or status. But, is collaboration easy? Does it come naturally? Is it really a comfortable space for everyone?

Our first SERES Collaborative Lab between local youth leaders and global collaborators took place last March in Chimaltenango, with the purpose of facilitating a dialogue by putting everyone’s ideas and experiences and develop on the table and developing an action plan from scratch. This is one of the basic premises of the Lab: that only through EQUAL collaboration wherein everyone’s voice and opinion is valued can we really create the kinds of IMPACTING SOLUTIONS that we need to address todays most complex problems.

SERES hosted 5 young leaders from Guatemala, 5 from El Salvador and 6 students from the University of Michigan as part of the BLUElab Woven Wind project whose mission is ”to collaborate with diverse communities to design, build, test, and implement wind powered technology utilizing both the cultural characteristics of our customers and the technical capabilities of community environments. Through our work, we aim to serve society by developing sustainable, safe and functional devices that act as educational tools to both the team and the end users.” (BLUElab Woven Wind project website, 2009)


My role is to document these processes and projects for SERES and the more I record in the field the more I realize that I see things from a third eye perspective. When I’m checking footage in postproduction I frequently find myself asking: “When did that happen?”

When the Michigan University students arrived to Guatemala a couple of days before the Collaborative Lab I agreed with them to have a short meeting to talk about the video documentary I was going to shoot. At that meeting, I asked them: “What are your expectations from this Lab?” They all answered the same: “We have a blank paper ready to write on it, we want to go with the flow”. It was then that I realized that this was going to be very interesting.

So there we were, in Chimaltenango. The Collaborative Lab was underway and a lot of excitement could be felt. Laughs, people running and going back and forth between English and Spanish – a lot of fun. I could see them all starting to trust the process and allowing themselves to be fully present.

The second day ended after much work with the wording of the project’s mission: “To weave the energy of young leaders with renewable energy to achieve sustainable development”. It had taken hours to get to this point, but I could tell from the confused and exhausted faces of all the participants that having come to this somewhat abstract high-level view it still wasn’t clear for many and the question remained: “what are we going to do?”


Throughout the following two days it was all about defining responsibilities and structuring the teamwork. The initial concept had changed – it was no longer about just installing a wind turbine in a community. This project was taking the direction of a long-term educational program. The program covered all the local and global needs that concerned each of the participants. The level of commitment of each of the participants was inevitable. Some real collaboration was taking place.

Thanks to SERES facilitators Antonio Cruz Sanchez (El Salvador), Corrina Grace (Australia) and Abigail Quic (Guatemala) I believe that this Collaborative Lab was a total success. There is now a team of 40 youth (30 in Michigan + 10 in Guatemala and El Salvador) fully structured, organized and committed. The project objective is to create a culture of leadership to improve the environment using technology and education, and that is what they are doing.

As I reflect on that process and what happened, I return to my initial question: is it easy to sit around the same table and collaborate? In a collaborative space we have to be ready to reconsider personal priorities.  I will dare to say that collaborations are always bigger than ourselves and therefore inherently we will always be working for the greater good, however it does require a certain level of sacrifice and flexibility. But after what I have seen I believe that with the right process and an open mind, this is TOTALLY DOABLE. And to what end? To create true collaborative impact.

Now, where is the documentary I shoot? I’m in the middle of postproduction right now! Follow our facebook page, and stay tuned!

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