Defining Collaboration

Collaboration. What do we mean?

Hot word now, but does it mean less than gets bandied about? Putting it in context with terms such as collective, cooperation, connected, and community might help achieve some discernment.

To me the critical distinction is whether the process is iterative where all parties contribute to what is generated by the collaboration. It is not the collection of finished results from multiple parties, rather it is a co-creation process.

How do you define it?

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  1. New Giving

    That’s a huge question.  I’m glad that you talk about how collaboration comes in many forms in your other post.

    A couple of things I’ve learned about collaboration that have worked to various degrees in projects I’ve been involved with:

    - Modularity: how can you break the work into the smallest bits that people can pick up and run with and contribute back to the whole?  It’s always been a little sad to me how this principle from software development is really difficult to port to non-development contexts.  Difficult, but not impossible.

    - Scaffolding participation: people need a pretty clear path to collaboration.  Some will take a few little steps, and that should be valued.  Others will pick up a few more and larger tasks, but will want to steer clear of things like governance and process.  Finally, some people will be attracted to the core and really adopt a stakeholder stance, and we have to be prepared for that.

    Just off the top of my head

    1. Jean Russell

      These are great additions! Regarding modularity, I have found it challenging to break efforts up into independent bits where people do not need to be informed of the larger context, but they can take action. And the bit is juicy enough for them to feel, at least in my mind, like they did something to completion. However, the challenge of it always pays off when I do it. I also agree on the scaffolding tactic for some collaboration, and I wonder if you have some sense of the general percentages there – is is a 90, 9, 1 percent kind of thing?

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