The Benefits of Collaboration Between Companies and Communities

ThinkstockPhotos-139970757Mayor Van Bynen, the Mayor of Newmarket, received a call one day from a business owner in his community. The business was in a break out stage having developed an innovative service for the global Gaming community and needed to grow their company – fast! Their challenge was they couldn’t find any space in Newmarket that could provide adequate bandwidth for their service. It just wasn’t available and they were looking to relocate to Toronto to access the bandwidth required. Their call for help to the Mayor was a last minute attempt to find a way to stay in Newmarket. Collaborative workspaces are key to business growth.

Community Collaboration’s Rapid Mobilization Response

The Mayor immediately put a call into his trusted team of community collaborators to see what could be done. Led by the Chamber, the team of senior leaders were able to mobilize a response that not only arranged for a 1Gb internet connection where none was previously available but also provided new space for the company which was quickly expanding to 50 people. Other advisors and assistance was offered to help this company capture their opportunity and move it forward. They became the first tenant in a new Business Accelerator for the Town and are now building out a global analytics service that will provide jobs in Newmarket.

This rapid mobilization response was only possible because there was a close, trusted relationship between multiple partners. Each brought different pieces of the puzzle together quickly and in a coordinated fashion to benefit the whole community.

As per my last blog, this type of response would not have been possible 10 years ago. At that time, the partners all operated as separate institutions with very little collaboration together.

Institutions Establish the Rules of Engagement and Membership

Institutions have traditionally served as the organizing framework for bringing people together towards a common goal or cause. Currently, we are all working within an organization of some sort: a school, an army, a company, a government, or perhaps a religion. These institutions establish the rules of engagement and membership that prescribes how its members will engage with each other and how they will add value to each other.

By definition however, these institutions are exclusionary in their makeup. If you are a member, you can share in the process, tools, resources and community. If you are not a member, a citizen, an employee – you will not have access to the resources and information available thereby limiting your ability to interact effectively with that community. As a member of an institution, should we wish to work more closely with people in other institutions, we quickly run into barriers because:

These institutional models are rapidly becoming limited models for the kinds of work and innovative solutions that are being demanded today.

There are ways of interacting between these large institutional organizations but these arrangements are fairly limited in the numbers of participants that can be included. Usually these take the form of partnership agreements or memorandums of understanding (MOUs), which limit the types and numbers of potential participants to a few at a time.

What happens when we want to include input from all potential stakeholders, even the ones we don’t know exist? What rules of engagement apply? What technology tools do we need to implement in order to find each other, communicate & collaborate together? Is it possible to build a Collaborative Ecosystem that provides for extensive inclusivity? Are there ways to capture the value offered by a diverse group of stakeholders no matter if they are institutional partners or individuals, if they are a small group of participants or virtually unlimited numbers?

Increasingly the answer is ‘yes’.

We require new models and new tools to manage collaboration between institutions.

Examples of Community Collaborative Ecosystems

Two examples of this type of Community Collaborative Ecosystem (CCE) that are developing can be found in Canada:

Saint John, NB

There are 5 municipalities who have come together over the past few years to establish a group of 130 partners, and growing. They include Municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, schools, businesses, other government entities, libraries, hospitals and more. All of these partners understand that they need to work together to achieve sustainable models for their economic, environmental and social environment. They have established a ‘True Growth’ model that is designed to allow all partners to add and realize value from the community in new ways, to their mutual benefit.

Newmarket, ON

As 1 of 9 municipalities in the Region of York, a small group of partners including the Town, Southlake Regional Hospital, the Chamber of Commerce and the library came together a few years ago to discuss how to better collaborate. This modest beginning has already yielded millions of dollars of benefit to the partners. More importantly however, it has established a group of community leaders that know and trust each other. They know how to collaborate in ways that were not happening previously. Where there is synergy now, there used to be distrust and suspicion. The group is now able to identify projects that will benefit the community and execute on those quickly and efficiently in ways that none of the individual partners can do on their own.

Looking at these two CCE examples as well as other similar examples, some principal requirements begin to emerge.

Building Collaborative Community Ecosystems (CCE)

Consider the CCE pyramid, at the base level, there is a requirement for a new governance model that provides for innovative flexibility between partners but also helps set the rules of engagement. We need to understand the vision and goals of the community so that it is understood what the community is working towards.

Secondly, there needs to be a technology platform that helps manage many of the organizational functions that are previously the domain of institutions and not available to individuals. Technology tools now open these capabilities to the world, crossing institutional, geographical and cultural barriers. That provides a platform for inclusivity rather than exclusivity.

Once these pieces are in place, the collaborative community can begin to execute projects that will accelerate them towards their vision and goals in ways that could not have been previously imagined. For more information on Collaborative CommunitiesContact us and stay tuned for my next blog about Technology Platforms for Collaborative Communities.

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 build efficiencies & 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:

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.