Collaboration Context: Group

July 29th, 2010 by GĂĽnter

The following panelists will help us explore the ins and outs of group collaborations during “Yours, Mine, Ours: Leadership through Collaboration“:

  • Rob Stein, CIO, Indianapolis Museum of Art
    Collaboration Trials and Triumphs: ArtBabble, Steve, etc.
  • Tom Garnett, BHL Director, Smithsonian Institution
    Collaboration Trials and Triumphs: Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • John F. Helmer, Executive Director, Orbis Cascade Alliance
    Collaboration Trials and Triumphs: Northwest Digital Archives & Western Regional Storage Trust (WEST)
  • As with our previous panel on local solutions, the specific projects serve as exemplars for collaboration strategies which the audience will be able to apply to realizing their own ambitions. Speaking of which, we’ve made sure to have some time on the agenda where attendees can explore the implications of what they’ve heard in smaller group settings (see the Birds-of-a-Feather slots on Day 2). During online registration, people vote for specific topics they’d like to see covered in these facilitated discussion settings, such as single search (local), digital preservation (group) or open access (global).

    Here’s some background on group collaborations:

    Group Solutions – Common Interest
    “We work together because we have common interests.”

    Moving beyond the single institution, collaboration across organizational boundaries occurs when there is a common interest. A group of motivated individuals or institutions bands together to work on an issue they would have found difficult or impossible to solve in isolation. Many collaborative grant-funded projects fall into this category: a finite number of players tackle an issue that vexes participants in their own local contexts. Because the local benefit of this type of collaboration can be readily perceived, common interest collaborations are generally accepted as a way to achieve broad outcomes. In the sphere of group collaborations, we see activities such as open-source software development, subject-based data aggregations, and shared technological platforms such as HathiTrust.

    On the other hand, group collaborations around a common interest have a high management overhead for setting and managing expectations, dividing up the work, coordinating outputs from different groups, and staying on track. Different work cultures among a group’s participants can pose a serious threat to the most rationally conceived projects. Furthermore, participants’ interests may evolve in different directions; commonalities may dissipate over time.

    Since common interest collaborations rely on direct contact, meetings and constant negotiation, it is challenging to mount and manage them at scale. Once these collaborations mature, they often require the creation of new organizational structures such as governing boards or foundations.

    In the next post in this series, we’ll look at common value collaborations as a strategy for aligning the entire community.

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