This week, our focus is on collaboration. We spoke with the founder of the Christine B. Foundation, Matt Dexter, and got his own take on just how powerful and impactful collaboration within cancer care can be.
1) What is your role at The Christine B. Foundation?
I tend to tell others that I have the best job in the world. I am the founder of The Christine B. Foundation, serving as President and Executive Director. In April of 2008, my sister, father, and I lost Christine, my mother and the rock to our family, to stomach cancer. As caregivers through this cancer journey, we wanted to give back to others who have been affected by cancer in Eastern Maine, from knowing first hand how it impacts an entire family. Since inception in late 2014, I have been involved with CBF’s programs and development, and couldn’t be more proud of the countless donors and volunteers alongside me in our mission.
2) How would you define ‘Collaboration’?
In its simplest form, I see collaboration as a group of individuals, with diverse backgrounds and agendas, moving forward a common goal. Much of the time, collaboration is viewed as a linear, controlled, exchange of words with a road map already defined. This rational, hierarchical, structure might appear effective in the short term, but to effectively tackle the complexity of cancer treatment and support in Eastern Maine, there needs to be some stretch to this collaboration. The more diverse a group is the better! But, diversity breeds multiple “right” answers. Flexibility among your peers and the comfort to move forward without needing one solution is important.
3) How have you begun collaborations in the past?
Many of the relationships I have been part of, both personally and professionally, began with a simple face-to-face introduction. Easy as that. A natural conversation is incredibly important as any relationship begins. Over time, I’ve truly acknowledged the importance of being open. As any business, organization, or relationship starts, it is easy to fold inward to protect what is yours. You have devoted your career to this mission, task, or goal, and are fully invested in your personal bubble. But, collaboration requires you to step outside of your inner circle. Being open fosters trust, rapport, and transparency as everyone strives to change lives in the cancer community.
4) What do you look for when creating a collaboration?
It is important to have a sense of who you’d like to work with, why they’d be valuable in this shared goal, and perhaps most importantly, what they would get out of it as well. There are some incredible initiatives going on from Mt. Katahdin all the way down east supporting the cancer community. But, not all are working in parallel. I challenge you to identify 3 businesses, organizations, or individuals you might have a poor or no relationship with, but who has a mission aligned with yours. Inviting those who you might not know, like, or agree with is the very reason collaboration is important in the non-profit environment as we serve our cancer community. Your mission statement is to support your community, it might be time to involve your community in the discussion.
5) How have partnerships and collaborations evolved as the foundation has grown?
No one organization can change the course of cancer. It truly takes organizations across town, region, and state lines to come step outside their personal, day-to-day bubble, and work collectively. I personally adopted this way of thinking early on in CBF’s life. I’ve had the honor of working with some incredible nonprofit, for-profit, governments, and most importantly those with lived experience.
6) What would you suggest to other nonprofits looking to begin a partnership and collaboration with CBF or other organizations?
Be prepared to compromise from the beginning. Make an effort to relate to your current or potential partners, as they all have different affiliations, aspects, and interests. Be okay with smaller tasks. Advancing work starts with experiments and trying things out collectively. Lastly, know your role. Step fully into the effort and situation to not only represent your organization but the people you are serving.
Want to connect with Matt Dexter? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org