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Stretch Collaboration in Mexico

Adam Kahane
October, 2018

For the past four years, I have spent much of my time supporting an extraordinary alliance called Possible Mexicos. This platform supports more than 100 leaders from all sectors of Mexican society in working together to address their country’s daunting and interwoven issues of insecurity, illegality, and inequity.

This team has made good progress in incubating a set of high-leverage initiatives, including ones to ensure that the country’s attorney general is appointed democratically, create equitable contracting between household workers and their employers, and coordinate responses to earthquakes. In doing so, team members have created a living example of an unconventional way for diverse actors—including those who don’t agree with or like or trust each other—to collaborate on complex issues of common concern.

This approach is receiving lots of attention as the new Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, prepares to enter office on promises of transforming the country systemically. It is also the subject of “Colaborar con el enemigo,” the Spanish-language edition of my book (published by the Mexican National Human Rights Commission and the National Autonomous University of Mexico), which includes several essays about the project and a personal reflection on peacemaking by former Colombian president and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Juan Manuel Santos.

The Possible Mexicos team has taken on an ambitious agenda in a tough context. Not surprisingly, most team members have found the work both challenging—intellectually, politically, emotionally, spiritually—and transformative. Many of them have stretched and grown from the experience and have shared their reflections in newspaper columns and television shows. For instance, team member Mauricio Meschoulam, a security expert, wrote a provocative essay on “The Possible Mexicos Project and Associative Peace.” And I was inspired by team member Carlos Cruz, president of Citizens’ Way, to write about a crucial but often overlooked dimension of this work, “Why Teams Should Argue.”

These two sides of working across difference—profound challenge and transformative potential—are visible in daily headlines around the world. We can all learn from the commitment and courage of leaders like those involved in Possible Mexicos.

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