Monday, July 6, 2009

The hard-won value of collaborative projects and processes

As far as I am concerned, there is no need for Social Actions and All for Good to compete with one another in an effort to help more Americans find ways to serve. Here’s why:

  • There’s no such thing as an organization too big to collaborate
  • There’s no such thing as an organization too small to collaborate with
  • When the grassroots and giants conspire for good, the possibilities are endless (think Obama)

Most importantly, in certain circumstances, collaborative dynamics and processes can be far more effective at producing innovation than competition. For example, Social Actions has been working for the last five months on a project called the Social Entrepreneur API. We have brought together the staff of five leading award programs in social entrepreneurship and are building out the infrastructure for distributing information about social entrepreneurs far and wide. The service, which will launch later this summer, represents a breakthrough example of similar organizations leaving their similarities and differences behind and actively pursuing a collaborative opportunity that advances the entire field of social entrepreneurship.

I worry that if All for Good and Social Actions become outright competitors, the outcome will not be as good for volunteerism and service as it could be. Conversations about open standards will become partisan. Efforts to create innovative applications that distribute ways to do good will be duplicated. And the opportunity to lead the social sector by example in the direction of collaborative innovation will be squandered.

I’ll leave you with this thought: global competition may have sent people into outer space for the first time, but now collaboration between large and small nations keeps them there. I cannot recall if that sentiment is original. If it’s not original, please let me know who I should give credit to. Attribution for a good idea is the first step toward collaborative innovation.


Turning Conflict into Cooperation

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