Extraordinary Times Call for Working Together, Without Forgetting Who We Are


I wrote a long article extolling the virtues of collaboration and how individual institutions can become individually stronger by coming together… But you know all that already.

So, I’ll cut to the chase: let’s focus on working together, while not forgetting who we are.

Don’t forget yourself. Commonly, this phrase means not to lose one’s dignity, temper or self-control, or otherwise act improperly. In these times of mindfulness and self-care, it’s also taken on a more literal meaning: while you’re out there caring for others, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Here, I mean it in both ways:

  • Speak up. Whether your institution is large or small, right now is not the time to stay silent and focus inwardly.

    We’ve all seen people (whether they’re students, faculty or administrators) hold back or stay silent, to only later ask or say something that would have made a real difference. We all experience this, I’m sure, and beat ourselves up about it later…

    As with science and education in general, it’s the quality of the idea, the incisiveness of the observation, and elegance of the solution that matters—and during this crisis, we each have the responsibility to communicate and participate. We can’t let anything, let alone such things as niceties or humility or whatever it is, get in the way. Don’t forget who you are, speak up!

  • Mind the gap. While the relationship with government is very important to each institution, it’s not the only relationship, nor the only relationship that matters. So, while we’re rightly taking our cue from governmental authorities right now, we will make it through together and be all the stronger only if each institution keeps its mission, values, and responsibilities front of mind, and works to reinforce the structural elements of the public post-secondary sector in B.C. While you’re busy helping, don’t forget to take care of yourself!

Let’s work together. Things are changing fast, the stakes are high and budgets are under pressure. For every critical challenge that you are facing, there are also potentially game-changing opportunities being raised.

All the more, you need to act fast and be smart about it.

However, it’s true what they say: you can only have two from the list of good, fast and cheap.

But that’s only if you assume there’s just one client. If the cost of a good and fast service is shared amongst many…

B.C. post-secondary institutions have lots of experience with inter-institutional collaboration, purchasing consortia (e.g. BCNet, CRKN, etc.), and joint retainers. Now is the time to lean into the power and opportunities these collaborative and cost-effective structures present.

For example, if your institution is considering (or, has already started using) particular software, you’re likely not alone. Engage with BCNet, or if that’s not possible, band together with other institutions to perform the required privacy assessments and designate a single contract negotiation team to negotiate (or renegotiate) the agreements.

Along the same principle, a jointly retained consultant can evaluate the governance and strategic risks and provide options for implementing a new initiative to be developed under the same government program. Similarly, several institutions could retain the same consultant to update their procurement documents to reflect the COVID-19 purchasing environment; or provide advice on common governance issues under the University Act, or the College and Institute Act, as the case may be.

The combination of a strong in-house team to lead the initiative, and a targeted and cost-effective jointly-retained external supplier is one of the tools readily available to ensure you’re moving with the speed of the times, without sacrificing the benefits of collaboration and subject-matter expertise.

Ultimately, when we look back on this time I hope that we see that for all the pain, stress and sacrifice, it was a time when we consciously chose to focus on what is truly important, and tried—tried something different, tried something outside our comfort zone, and tried something previously thought impossible. We’ve already demonstrated that we’re far more adaptable than anyone would have imagined, so let’s keep exploring, and keep getting stronger, together.

Michal Jaworski

This article represents the views of Michal Jaworski only, and does not represent the views of Clark Wilson LLP, or its lawyers and staff.