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In Nov. 2021 after ten years of our evolving mission and impact, we changed our name to Gathering Ground. You may still find reference to our old name Creative New Jersey in posts created prior to Nov. 2021.

The “Me/We” Mindset: Collaboration can move mountains at Creative Camden

Originally posted on the Geraldine R. Dodge Blog.

Engaging young people, creating jobs, teaching tech innovation, improving transit and improving education are just a few of the fifty-seven strategic discussions that sparked new collaborations and strengthened partnerships during the two days of our Creative Camden Call to Collaboration.

Over the course of those conversations, I heard a theme emerge, most succinctly captured in the words of three Creative Camden participants in videos below, which I’ll paraphrase by saying, “The Me/We mindset moves mountains.”

What I heard at Creative Camden got me thinking differently about how I frame the idea of “collaboration.”

The flip from using the word “I” to using “we” is an essential one in building community because it means individuals start to identify with a larger collective and start to build a sense of belonging. When I heard Christopher Hampton, Founder of ChampIAm, use the phrase “me/we” on the second day of Creative Camden, something about that shift in language crystalized for me: it’s about the individual but inseparable relationship between “me” and “we.”

Using a phrase like “me/we” shows identification and belonging, but also mutual benefit in a way that still puts the greater good first.  Motivating change is often much easier when people can see and experience direct benefit to themselves, but that key ingredient might well be a personal benefit that is still in service to community benefit.  Here’s how Chris puts it:

Christopher Hampton, Founder of ChampIAm

When Chris’ comments are viewed in conjunction with those of Michael D’Italia, Program Coordinator for Engaged Civic Learning at Rutgers University-Camden, who spoke about collaboration and cooperation, we start to see how the “me/we” mindset generates the kind of collective partnerships that can help move ideas forward:

D'Italia video

Michael D’Italia, Program Coordinator for Engaged Civic Learning, Rutgers University-Camden

Zulma Gonzalez-Lombardo’s comments brought it all home for me, when she discussed the collective impact that is possible from everyone bringing their individual talents in support of a greater cause:

Lombardo video

Zulma Gonzalez-Lomboardo, Executive Director of The Rachel & Drew Katz Foundation

Collaboration is hard. Collaboration takes time. And in our experience, collaboration never looks the same way twice.

But we know that it works, and when it works the payoff can be transformational because it can change:

  1. The way we view our place in our own communities and
  2. Mutually beneficial change for ourselves and those around us — the “me/we” of thriving communities.

I learned from the participants of Creative Camden, as we do from every community, and so we want to learn from you, our readers. I want to pose a question to you all:

What does the “Me/We” mindset look like to you?  Have you had a collaborative experience that changed the way you saw yourself in relation to a larger collective? When were you most motivated to help move a mountain?  Did you see personal benefit in some way as part of the goal of collective benefit?

Please share your experiences and thoughts on this idea on our Facebook Page — we’d like to learn how collaborative work has impacted you!

If you want to become involved with the Creative Camden members, please email us at and we’ll be sure to connect you. There’s a new Creative Camden Facebook group that recently launched and you can check out photos and videos there. A compendium of the notes from all discussions across both days of the Creative Camden Call to Collaboration is available online and can be accessed here.

Kacy O'Brien

Kacy O’Brien is Creative New Jersey’s Program Manager and is a Lead New Jersey 2015 Fellow.

Creative New Jersey is dedicated to fostering creativity, innovation, and sustainability by empowering cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture in order to ensure dynamic communities and a thriving economy. Creative New Jersey’s leaders and partners are regular contributors to the Dodge blog.


“Attending Asbury Park’s Call to Collaboration was my launch for my girl-centered mentoring program. It was an informative and educational experience that I will forever value. I appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with community members from all walks of life.”

– Angela Ahbez-Anderson – Board Member & four-term President, Asbury Park School District (Asbury Park)