Like other stories, this one begins with once upon a time, sometime in the late 1980s. CCLOW members in various parts of northern Saskatchewan were invited to a meeting where we discovered we all knew at least some of the other women. We decided to be an active chapter of the Saskatchewan network. A few months later, Regina CCLOW members, who had begun to plan for CCLOW' s annual general meeting to be held in Saskatoon, asked if we could take over. Four of us agreed, and with a paid coordinator already hired, we organized the meeting as well as a conference, "Sharing Our Experiences, Connecting Our Stories." The conference was a success and the four of us became friends.
A few months later Anne Elliott, who was just finishing her term on the national board as the Saskatchewan director, told us that CCLOW was looking for a guest editor for a special issue of WEdf on the effects of violence on learning and education. She felt strongly that she, Wanita, Pip and myself should submit a proposal to collectively edit this issue. Although we felt excited by the idea, we were not sure we would be able to do it. After a discussion about content, focus, and process, as well as mutual pep talks, we decided to try.
We submitted a proposal to edit the issue as a collective. That is, we would be four equals, not a boss and three helpers. We carefully drew up the proposal and waited to hear what would happen. We were confident that the topic and our treatment of it would be acceptable; we were not so sure about our suggested collective. I suspect that the Editorial Board of CCLOW was not so sure either. It had not been done before; it is easier to work with one or two people than with a committee, where things might take forever. To the credit of CCLOW, they accepted our proposal and we became editors of the summer 1992 edition of Women's Education des femmes.
You might wonder why we wanted to be a collective. Like most other women we know, we are busy, with many demands on our time. No one of us had the time to be individually responsible for such a project. Together, we did.
Perhaps more importantly, we all have talents and experiences that would contribute to an excellent issue, but no one of us had all those talents and experiences combined. We felt that with four viewpoints, we might see things that a single individual, no matter how talented, might miss. It is also true that a well functioning group is typically more creative of ideas than a single person (1). A collective structure, then, allowed us to combine our individual strengths, and to explore and to exploit our collective creativity. It also provided a ready-made support group in what might otherwise be a lonely project.
At the same time, working as a collective meant that we did not always get things done exactly as anyone of us wanted. Each of us had to give up some of our power to the group. Some people are uncomfortable with collective decision-making and would find such restrictions confining. Those of us comfortable with a collective process find that it can liberate and educate. It can liberate because as you become familiar with the group and its workings, you might well be less self-conscious, you might well feel comfortable saying what you really think, not what you think is expected. It can educate because if you accept the equality of all, which involves active listening, you learn from other members of the collective.
A collective process can also create a product far superior to what anyone individual might accomplish on her own. I think it is accurate to say that in this particular collective, none of us had a problem with the decisions that were made, even if, in the process of arriving at that decision, we disagreed. In the course of discussion, we modified, explained and clarified our positions and arrived at a decision we all liked (2).