This is the last in a series of posts on the Leadership through Collaboration Forum and the thinking that went into structuring the agenda. Before I conclude, I’d like to acknowledge that creating the forum agenda was a collaborative activity in and of itself – we’re grateful in particular to our host (The Smithsonian Institution), and to all of the RLG Partners on the planning group who contributed (you’ll see them listed at the bottom of this page). Additional support for the event came from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation – thank you!
Some final words on the collaboration contexts: It is important to remember that no one of the collaboration contexts (local, group, or global) is inherently better than the other. Each provides the appropriate framing for solving different types of issues. Within any of these three contexts, the collaboration can be very shallow or very deep.
Figure 1: The Collaboration Continuum (introduced in “Beyond the Silos of the LAMs: Collaboration Among Libraries, Archives and Museums” [pdf])
Moving along the collaboration continuum, collaborations which express themselves as contact, cooperation or coordination are additive; they foster a working relationship among partners, yet remain distinct projects easily separable from the core functions and workings of the institution. Such collaborations do not impact how an institution organizes itself and its workforce. Deeper collaborations trend toward convergence, a transformative process that eventually will change behaviors, processes and organizational structures, and leads to a fundamental interconnectedness and interdependence among the partners. In transformative collaborations, participants find efficiencies that free up time and resources to focus on the things they do best. At the extreme end of the continuum, convergence in a specific area may turn into infrastructure: a service that is so deeply embedded into our everyday life that it becomes visible only when it breaks down. You only think about who hosts your e-mail, or where your electricity comes from, when the service is interrupted.
The stages of contact, cooperation and coordination on the collaboration continuum are likely the prerequisites for reaping the benefits of deep collaboration and convergence. Within each of the local, group, and global collaboration contexts, additive or transformative relationships can emerge. For both the collaboration contexts and the stages of the collaboration continuum, each setting provides unique benefits and drawbacks. Finding the appropriate collaboration context for a given challenge, and building relationships along the continuum so all parties derive the maximum benefit, are hallmarks of successful long-term collaborations.