The key factor is the way our society is structured through economic growth and competition. Both impact on collaboration between organisations, between communities and nations.
Some of the best known national and international collaborative efforts are organisations like the United Nations or the International Monetary Fund, and regions like the United States of America, which started life as 13 independently governed states, the European Union (28 countries) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (12 countries including Australia).
These collaborations were formed around one common cause or to bring resilience to the participating parties. We also know most of these are only somewhat effective ending up as talk fests. The fragile nature of these collaborations come to light when national leaders discuss wicket problems like global poverty or climate change. A vivid memory is the high expectation of the Copenhagen Summit (UNs Climate Change Conference) in 2009. This Summit did increase the public awareness of this global issue, yet it could not drive the political will and economic direction to overcome the concerns over sovereignty of countries.
There are many examples of attempts to collaborate and miserable failure in our daily life. Examples ar politics; the free sharing of resources; competition that stops resolving industry issues; or the simple notion that if you do something it is with the intent that you must foremost get something out of it.
It is increased competition and self-interest which has destroyed our trust and the necessary ability to bond and form deep collaboration. Robert Putnam, in his book Bowling Alone (2000) states that society in the 1950s and 60s had the highest level of social capital (trust). Since then it has been in decline due to growth in inequality, an economically less just, and politically and socially less well connected society. Without the social capital of trust this trend cannot be reversed. Hence, deep collaboration is impossible and we continue to function with a zero sum game rather than looking at abundance.
The solution is found within each of us: letting go of fears that inhibit the implementation of Nobel Prize winner John Nash’s discovery:
The Best for the Group comes when everyone in the group does what's best for himself AND the group.