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Making A Difference

Finding Common Ground

Richard Crespin (GMP 4, 1999)

Building trust is crucial to the relationships fostered by CollaborateUp, the consulting firm founded by Richard Crespin (GMP 4, 1999), yet sometimes it’s tough. When he recently took some skeptical conservationists to a meeting at agribusiness giant Monsanto’s headquarters, he says it seemed the only thing missing was ominous John Williams theme music playing in the background.

CollaborateUp specializes in bringing corporations, government agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations together, to take on big, complex issues, such as endangered species trafficking, international food security, and access to health care. Crespin calls these concerns “problems in the commons,” that is, issues where stakeholders with different agendas and clashing cultures each own part of the problem and must each play a role in the solution. That makes collaboration essential, no matter how odd the partnerships might seem.

At the Monsanto meeting, CollaborateUp brought together conservation and environmental groups, big agriculture, beekeepers, the USDA, the EPA, and several state agriculture departments, to collaborate in saving honey bees, which play a crucial role in the food chain, though their numbers have been in precipitous and alarming decline in recent years. One environmentalist told Crespin he initially feared the meeting was “like going to the Death Star”; but, by finding common ground, they are working together as the Honey Bee Coalition with the goal of improving the health of honey bees in general and especially in production agriculture. “One of the roles we have to play,” he says, “is getting people to see the humanity of the other.”

(Published November 2017)