How Can We Find New Ways to Collaborate

Twelve years ago, Pete Anderson went on sabbatical from his position as a Professor of Material Science and Engineering at OSU.  Although he and his family were living out of state, he found himself returning to Ohio through the course of the year to check on programs and experiments that he was in charge of.  To save costs on lodging, he bought a sofa sleeper which he put in his office on campus.  It was living in these cramped quarters, a few paces from the desk that he worked at, that sent him out onto the campus on a Sunday morning and brought him to Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

As he’s grown older, Pete says that he’s come to value collaboration more and more, especially as he’s gained some sense of the limitations of his own creativity and ingenuity.  A few years ago, he became involved in a project to grow engineered skin.  He was at a cross-disciplinary campus meeting, where he met a burn specialist attached to OSU’s medical center.  When he spoke before the Ministerium of Ideas last week, he told us that the key to such collaborations is finding a person with a great passion.  The burn specialist he met had spent several years treating people with severe burns, and knows how pernicious infection is for treating this kind of injury.  Pete agreed to her vision of speeding up the process of creating skin (in vats, from the patient’s own cells), and they enlisted two others to help in the effort.

For Pete, this is the central insight into strong collaborations.  Someone with vision and passion needs to be the catalyst.  Others need to align themselves with that vision and bring their own skills and talents to bear.  Like all the questions we examine in the Ministerium, this insight presents us with an opportunity to act.  Who in our neighborhoods and faith communities have the most passionate visions, and how can we help people articulate those visions, and support them?