Building an inclusive, flexible and innovative Community Collaboration Ecosystem

ThinkstockPhotos-167169717Ten years ago, when I first joined the Board of Directors for the local Chamber of Commerce, I was amazed at the lack of synergy between the Town and the Chamber. You would think it is natural for these two organizations to work closely together for the community’s mutual benefit. But there was more talk about how to avoid working together than there was in finding ways to add value to each other.

Collaborative relationships pay dividends.

We shifted the attitude of the Chamber to one of co-operation and collaboration. Fast forward ten years and this community now enjoys an extremely close working relationship between the Chamber and the Town, which has resulted in:

  • A growing list of partners that want to collaborate and ‘just get things done’.
  • Partnering on projects that can’t be accomplished by any one of the partners alone.

This group of trusted collaborators is now attracting the interest of other municipalities, schools and companies.  They all want to find ways to work together because you can accomplish more.

Our world is changing faster than ever, forcing people to figure out new ways to work more productively. As our existing organizational models are not as effective as they used to be, there is often a lack of innovation, siloing and generally slow progress on requirements that demand ever faster solutions.

While searching for new ways to be more productive, two basic principles arise, as we have discussed in previous blogs:

  1. We want to expand our network of partners to include new ideas and expertise
  2. We need better tools to make our collaborations seamless, flexible, quick and effective

Don Tapscott, a world leader on innovation and the economic and social impact of technology describes the need for collaborative networks of stakeholders to address global issues in Solving the World’s Problems Differently. This same approach can be applied to local and regional levels. In fact, it is at these levels that new Collaboration Ecosystems get started in communities, cities and provinces.

Building a Community Collaborative Ecosystem

A Community Collaborative Ecosystem (CCE) is an ecosystem of partners coming together to work toward a common vision and a set of common goals. Think of a city or town with many partner stakeholders including citizens, businesses, non-profit organizations and government entities.

It is inclusive to the point of being able to recognize and integrate the value of all stakeholders whether they are part of the institutions or from outside. It is flexible, agile and innovative. It is able to recognize value brought by partners in more ways than simply monetary, and it is able to facilitate the redistribution of that value back to the ecosystem partners in sustainable ways.

The ecosystem may be organized around geographies, areas of interest or common visions. They are loosely governed by general shared principles rather than rigid institutional structures. They rely heavily on technology to provide the organizational aspects required rather than institutional frameworks.

They are born out of the need to find new, innovative ways to answering the question, “How can we get this done now?”

Mapping Out a Community Collaborative Ecosystem

Think about what you are trying to accomplish and how you will measure success:

  1. Who will be your collaborative partners?
  2. How will your new partnerships be managed?
  3. How do you accommodate a growing number of new partners?
  4. How will you fund your efforts and how will the benefits of your work together be distributed?
  5. How will you manage these disparate efforts to realize maximum synergy without adding managerial roadblocks?
  6. How will you communicate to the community, between partners and with the rest of the world?
  7. What common tools will be used in order to make your collaborations easy, regardless of who or where the partners are located and their personal preference for technology?

Realizing your Ecosystem’s Vision

Once you have a good understanding of how everyone will work together, you can put in place a technology platform to facilitate collaboration. This allows you to identify projects that will realize your CCE goals. These projects will involve various ecosystem partners coming together in new and multiple combinations. As there can literally be an unlimited number of partners, the number of projects can be very large as well.

It is up to the collaboration ecosystem to manage the overall view of how to connect, maximize the value of projects so the vision of the ecosystem is realized.

In our upcoming blogs you’ll find Part II, Collaboration Between Institutions and Part III, Building Technology Platforms for a Collaborative Ecosystem where I will explore how to establish the various platforms on which to build your CCE as well as looking at some examples of communities working toward this new way of working. Please Contact Us if you would like to explore this concept in more detail.

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