Thursday, September 30, 2010


A collaboration is a formal understanding between partners that announces they will work together to create something that is different from what they had when working alone. Collaboration brings together individuals that have something in common, yet have differing expertise and viewpoints. “Collaboration anchors not in the process of relationship, but in the pursuit of a specific result. Collaboratives are established to solve problems, develop new understandings, design new products.”(Leo Denise. “Collaboration vs. C-Three (Cooperation, Coordination, and Communication),” Innovating.)

Related to collaboration are coordination and cooperation. Both are useful in establishing a collaborative, but they can be pursued separately from one. Coordination is the creation of a partnership to promote efficiency. In the cultural heritage fields, coordination can help organizations avoid collection overlap and competition for resources, but it does not assume that partners will work together beyond that. Cooperation does not even involve partnering, but instead encourages organizations to recognize that they are both part of a community and therefore should work together amicably... Cooperation and coordination can be beneficial in collaboration, but they are not comprehensive strategies for achieving long-term, focused results.

If we choose to pursue a long-term partnering strategy, we first must recognize that a successful collaborative is required, to some extent, to put the needs of the collaborative above those of individual institutions. This is not to say that you must abandon the goals of your own organization. In fact, a successful collaborative will meld with an individual institution’s own ideals. When entering a collaborative, you make a formal agreement to adhere to the principles established by the collective. Individuals must also recognize that they will need to dedicate some time toward collaborative work. This means that participants must be willing to take some time away from other projects to devote attention to group-related cooperative tasks.

The first step toward establishing a collaborative is to carefully reach out to prospective partners and plan for the development of a partnership based on mutual agreement. Those with the initiative to start a group must carefully consider what they want the group to achieve. “For a collaborative idea to succeed, it has to be embedded in an overarching vision all participants share, which makes it worth the effort to overcome the inevitable obstacles.” (Diane M. Zorich, Gunter Waibel, and Ricky Erway, Beyond the Silos of the LAMs: Among Library, Archives and Museums (Dublin, OH: OCLC, 2008), 21.)

Partners must recognize possible pitfalls before they occur. Whether you seek to establish a formal incorporated group or an informal group, there are basic procedures to encourage its success. Partnerships are often unsuccessful due to miscommunication, insufficient planning, or setting unachievable goals. “Collaboration, as a human enterprise, totally depends for its success upon the goodwill of its participants.” (James Burgett. Collaborative Collection Development: A Practical Guide for Your Library (Chicago: ALA, 2004), 23.)...

A collaborative group should begin with a focus on easily achievable goals that guide everyone in the same direction. Long-range planning can be initiated once the group is running efficiently. The committee must create milestones that, once reached, serve as a measure of the group’s success. A primary goal is to encourage a cooperative ethic that will lead to efficiency and increased access to expertise in a wide range of fields...

[From the book "Cultural Heritage Collaborators: A Manual for Community Documentation" by Melissa Mannon. 2010]

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