Searching for a cover photo for an Alliance special feature can be an illuminating experience in itself. When thinking about collaboration, we turned first to the natural world. Ants and bees spring immediately to mind, but the photos are unappealing, a mass of insects crawling together in an undifferentiated whole. There can be fewer examples of more effective collaboration than among ants and bees, but the loss of individual identity and need for self-sacrifice is great. Such self-effacement in the common cause is probably not a model that would appeal to human would-be collaborators but it vividly reflects the cost-benefit equation that is involved whenever collaboration is considered.
Then we looked to migrating birds. We couldn’t find the picture quality we wanted, but the images are beautiful with a liberating feel, the birds flying in the same direction in perfect formation seeming to lose nothing from being part of the larger group. This seems to me to represent the sort of change that can occur when large numbers of people and organizations move in the same direction at once, not formally collaborating but communicating among themselves.