The Center for




social scientists designing collaborative relationships—with the brain in mind

Clarity is crucial.

Don't avoid stress in collaborative spaces.
Learn how to use it for clarity.

Custom design a collaborative strategy based on trust, clarity and resiliency.

Focus large-group wisdom,
build organizational connection, and do it with no time to spare.

We deliver clarity.  Clarity delivers results.

"Collectively, we're all better versions of ourselves now, so our impact is infinitely more meaningful." A.J., CEO

Collaborative AwarenessTM
|kəˈlabərətiv  əˈwe(ə)rnis| noun

Two or more entities working in concert to create a continuous and nearly instant feedback loop of group knowledge, adaptability and growth.

In every relationship there are at least 3 Entities: You, Me and We. 


Optimal collaboration continually occurs when the knowledge and awareness of the We Entity, and how it is custom designed and developed, is simultaneously taken into consideration at the same level as each individual.


There is no one-size-fits-all because every We Entity is made up of different individuals, circumstances and timing. This is why a continuous and nearly instant feedback loop is critical to the on-going health of the collaboration.



Mindfully building and employing the neural networks that have evolved to keep us connected, takes us from groups of people working together, to a Collaboratively Aware We Entity that thrives and adapts in any given situation. 

Where we impact collaboration
  • Thinking Partners | Consulting

  • Group Collaboration Coaching

  • Collaborative Relationship Design

  • Conference Keynoting

  • Meeting and Conference Facilitation


Your brain is the moderator
of your collaborations.

Our brains have two main functions that have emerged through millions of years of evolution ~ to connect us for growth, and to keep us safe.


We call these two modes the Connected Brain and the Safety Brain.


The development of our society has made the Safety Brain our first and main mode of interaction with the world. In keeping the Connected Brain as a secondary mode, we restrict our creativity, productivity, and resiliency—both individually and collaboratively.


It's time to learn how to quiet the Safety Brain and use it to access greater clarity, while allowing the Connected Brain to become our primary mode of interaction.

Safety Brain

The Safety Brain has one job, no matter what it takes, to KEEP US SAFE. Typically, this is the first lens we use to see and interpret the world around us. It functions like an enormous filing cabinet. It is constantly comparing and analyzing what’s happening around us to everything we know from the past to determine if any experience threatens our safety. It then takes that information and projects it into the future.


Connected Brain

Our Connected Brain’s main job is to do everything and anything to thrive as we meet our needs for energy, emotional connection, and growth. The Connected Brain has evolved to meet our needs through collaboration. It processes information in an intuitive manner and enables creativity and empathy, sidestepping our Safety Brain and our need to judge people or situations. It is the part of our brain that sees oneness over separation.


The Blueprint of We Collaboration Process
Design Your Collaborative Relationships

A simple, elegant process holding complex people and situations.

The Blueprint of We is a co-written design document and ongoing collaboration process  that builds trust and reduces anxiety in groups. The simple structure harnesses the innate social nature of humans and builds the skills and capacity to get things done.

  1. The co-written design document gives people the space to exchange information about who they are and how they work best.

  2. The collaboration process builds on your written design document and introduces tools to develop collaborative leadership behaviors, calming messy minds and improving on what is already working.

  3. It is currently used in many languages and cultures in 100+ countries worldwide—from entrepreneurial start-ups to non-profit organizations to global corporations. Watch the video below for a quick look at how it works to create a design document for your collaborative relationships.   MORE

"What if our agreements came from a place of love instead of fear?" @jeffkirschner


Blog Posts

Collaborative Tools

Open Space Meeting Facilitation

You’ve been to your fair share of meetings and conferences where you either leave uninspired, or you’re energized while you’re there, but the energy fails to translate long term back at the office.


Open Space replaces traditional meeting methods and brings life back to the organization and the organization back to life.


Open Space enables all kinds of people, in any type of organization, to create inspired communities, where ordinary people work together to create extraordinary results with regularity.


Open Space can be scheduled for 3 hours to 3+ days, and can include 5 to 2500+ people

A Quick Tour Through an Open Space Meeting

 Open Space works best when:

  • the work to be done is complex

  • the people and ideas involved are diverse

  • the passion for ideas and resolution (and even potential for conflict) are high

  • and the time to get it done was yesterday


Participants create and manage their own agenda around a central theme of strategic importance, such as:

What is the plan of action that all stakeholders in the organization can support and work together to create?
How can we re-ignite passion in our company and look forward to building a future that engages all?

World Cafe Large Group Dialogue

World Café is a creative process for leading collaborative dialogue, sharing knowledge and creating possibilities for action in groups of any size.


Café Conversations are one way that communities, businesses, governments, and people from all walks of life create a common purpose, share knowledge, make more intelligent decisions, and call forth life-affirming action together.


The methodology of the World Café is simple:

  • The environment is set up like a café, with small tables, tablecloths covered by poster paper, flowers, markers and, if possible, candles, quiet music and refreshments.

  • People sit three to four to a table and have a series of 3 conversational rounds lasting from 20 to 45 minutes each about questions which are personally meaningful.

  • At the end of each round, one person remains at each table as the host, while each of the other three travel to separate tables. Table hosts welcome newcomers to their tables and share the essence of that table's conversation so far. The newcomers relate any conversational threads which they are carrying — and then the conversation continues, deepening as the rounds progress.

  • After three rounds, the whole group gathers to share and explore emerging themes, insights, and learnings. These are captured in order to make the collective intelligence of the whole group visible to everyone, so they can reflect on what is emerging in the room. 

Why does World Cafe work? 

As we engage networks of human systems with compelling questions in a shared network of conversation, intelligence emerges as the system connects to itself in diverse and creative ways, and the future is born with all the collective wisdom and resources we need.

Other Collaborative Tools and Methods We Engage

  • The Curiosity Chain - Using Curiosity to Change Your Brain

  • unConference Facilitation

  • The Work of Byron Katie

  • Appreciative Inquiry - Read our interview in the International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry

  • WiserTogether - Multigenerational Collaboration

  • Graphic Facilitation - Using images to record your meetings and events

  • Cultural Transformation Tools - Barrett Values Centre 

  • Agile Learning

  • LEAN Start-up

  • NVC - Non Violent Communication


Co-Founders • Co-Directors

Maureen K. McCarthy and Zelle Nelson

Maureen K. McCarthy

The year Maureen McCarthy was told she would die young from a rare, genetic lung disease, she lost her business partner and her business, while also coming out of her ten-year marriage. Out of these major life events, Maureen became a living example of effortless relationship; at work and at home. Maureen is a true pioneer and visionary in the study of business relationships and the brain. She is Co-Director of the Center for Collaborative Awareness in Asheville, NC and Co-creator of the Blueprint of We Collaboration Process—used worldwide to build and sustain healthier, more resilient business and personal relationships in groups large and small. Maureen has worked across the globe with organizations and corporations from Astra Zeneca to the World Relief Organization, and with many communities to create vibrant leaders, inspire new ways of working together, and show us how to self facilitate mutually respectful relationships in the midst of rapid change. She has facilitated large group dialogues in many countries for a wide range of corporations, communities and non-profit organizations and is the co-author of the upcoming book titled Collaborative Awareness: How to Thrive in Fast-paced Collaboration.


Through dynamic keynote speaking and global management consulting, Maureen shares her insights into how we as human beings survive, and ultimately thrive, in relationship with ourselves and others. She changes the perspectives and lives of every person who hears her stories, and you walk away with the tools to live a more effortless day-to-day existence, no matter how diverse the people and circumstances around you. Learning from Maureen is life altering.

Zelle Nelson

Zelle Nelson is Co-Director of the Center for Collaborative Awareness in Asheville , NC and Co-creator of the Blueprint of We Collaboration Process—used worldwide to grow and sustain healthier, more resilient business and personal relationships, making our day-to-day interactions effortless and our time together more creative and productive.


In a world that changes in increasingly complex ways, making the old ground rules no longer reliable, we are being called to experience dynamic growth in groups. Zelle teaches others to re-imagine the conditions in which individuals and organizations access and experience Collaborative Awareness. He is passionate about understanding the neuroscience of our Connected Brain and Safety Brain so that we can have the conversations that matter to better custom design our life and work. He is the co-author of the upcoming book titled Collaborative Awareness: How to Thrive in Fast-paced Collaboration.


Zelle is a gifted business entrepreneur, social scientist, writer, and facilitator. He has built an extraordinary life with his wife and business partner, Maureen K. McCarthy, which encompasses both business and family. If you want to be deeply known and understood by others, take the opportunity to spend time with Zelle.

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The Center for




social scientists designing collaborative ecosystems—with the brain in mind

The Center for Collaborative Awareness


(+1) 847-859-9046


skype: collaborativeawareness


2021 Greenville Hwy.

Flat Rock, NC 28731 


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