Tag Archives: collaboration

What is collaboration?

Have you ever collaborated with someone yet didn’t feel like it was quite collaboration?  Perhaps you received a contribution or a comment or an input that was interesting yet didn’t make a substantive difference to the end product?  I feel the word collaboration is used loosely and should be reserved for times when all contributors are needed to create the outcome.  If this isn’t the case, maybe the input should be labelled differently such as contribution, cooperation, or commenting by colleagues.

This blog post from Cloudhead is a good start on differentiating terms we use in the world of working together:

“When collaborating, people work together (co-labor) on a single shared goal.
Like an orchestra which follows a script everyone has agreed upon and each musician plays their part not for its own sake but to help make something bigger.

When cooperating, people perform together (co-operate) while working on selfish yet common goals.
The logic here is “If you help me I’ll help you” and it allows for the spontaneous kind of participation that fuels peer-to-peer systems and distributed networks. If an orchestra is the sound of collaboration, then a drum circle is the sound of cooperation. ”

I would add to this that “To Collaborate” is to contribute to an end goal in a way that could otherwise not be reached without that collaboration.  Hence, collaboration can help create efficiencies of work (rather than increase work load) and bring new ideas to the end product which often means a stronger more robust product as well.

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Guidelines for Knowledge Partnerships

The Asian Development Bank has recently released “Guidelines for Knowledge Partnerships”, a report prepared by Heather Creech of IISD and myself.  This is a major step forward in our thinking on how to set up and manage partnerships that are primarily for the purposes of the generation and exchange of knowledge.   We built the guidelines around the OECD DAC criteria for evaluation (Relevance, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Impact and Sustainability), together with identifying building blocks and success factors.

We hope those of you currently working with partners, or building more formal networks and consortia of organizations will find these guidelines helpful.

You can download the guidelines on IISD’s website http://www.iisd.org/networks/manage/default.asp or from ADB: http://adb.org/documents/guidelines/knowledge-partnerships/default.asp

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Northern Voice is happening May 13-14

Have you ever been to a conference where you interacted with great people, were exposed to new and innovative ideas and left feeling energized and inspired?  This is Northern Voice!

On Friday May 13th, Sylvia Currie and I will be hosting a session called Drawing on Walls – Large Format.  I hope you can join us there!

Sometimes our imaginations are sparked by a visual where words fail us. Think about when communities plan and imagine their futures, when teams consider the possible outcomes for their projects, when groups create maps to track their progress. These are all opportunities to use visuals to engage and deepen community dialogue. In this session we’ll touch the paper, play with the pens, and loosen up our drawing muscles. Warning: You will stretch beyond the confines of typing on a keyboard!

Learn the basics and practice with us at Moose Camp! 


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People perspective and empowerment


Rachael and Nadine using their entire body to draw arcs on the paper

Today was Day 1 of the Graphic Facilitation Workshop I have been organizing with Nancy White.  I organized the workshop with the ulterior motive of wanting to take the workshop and learn more about visual practice.  It was a great day!

Some of the things we talked about and experimented with included:

–        Perspective

–        People

–        Build repertoire of icons

–        Sense of motion (e.g. lines)

–        Foundational work at the bottom

–        Linking ideas and thoughts, theme in center with circles around this, river as connector,

–        Colour as meaning (for people you work with, for cultures, warm/cool colours)

–        Recording – Listen, synthesize, share

–        Participatory – visuals are negotiable, stimulate divergent thinking

–        Space and size

–        Framing of the page

Everyone learned a lot in a few short hours…and people found this evolution very empowering.  Creativity was flowing and now everyone wonders…when and where can we use this in practice?  Are there safe spaces?  Will people be willing to play along?  Some advice we were given: Be Obvious, Accept Offers, Fail Cheerfully.

My first practice piece - circles, lines, letters and chalk

My 2nd practice piece - people, shading, W's

And at then end of the day, people were asked to provide 3 words each.  This is what we were feeling as a group:



16 people, three words each

Looking forward to Day 2 tomorrow!

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Graphic Facilitation – I want to see more!

Graphic Recording example, Michael Hepher, 2009

I first was asked to engage in drawing at a KM4Dev workshop in 2006.  The hosts used a technique called river of life, a visual narrative method that helps people tell stories of the past, present and future.   Since then, I have been forever intrigued as I catch glimpses of incorporating graphics at workshops and meetings.  These are glimpses as most often no one asks me to participate in visually depicting my thoughts at meetings.

Last year, I hired a graphic recorder to draw out a meeting as I facilitated it.  A few examples are incorporated into this blog post.  The summary of the meeting was enhanced with the key words and visuals that Michael Hepher highlighted throughout the day.  It was amazing how the different panels he created came together to tell a simple story of what had taken place.  This was a wonderful addition to our meeting that all participants appreciated.  So how can we see more of this in our work environments?

When I looked into practitioners in my rural area, I only found one.  When I looked into training, I discovered this exists in Victoria, BC and in San Francisco, California.    Finding trained visual practitioners is not easy.

With the desire to see more creativity around me, I decided to team up with a trainer to offer a capacity building workshop in rural British Columbia.  This workshop will focus on the powerful interactive graphic methods we can all use in our meetings to enhance our abilities to communicate and collaborate more effectively.

On August 9-10, 2010, I am pleased to share with you the opportunity to learn the techniques of writing on walls, visually interacting in meetings and workshops, and the art of recording via symbols, icons and using space.

All details, including how to register, can be found here!

A second example of a graphic by Michael Hepher, 2009.

Come to the workshop and get creative.  I truly want to see more graphic facilitation taking place!

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I don’t do knowledge management

What would you tell your grandmother you do for work?

Upon great reflection, I am pleased to tell the world, I am not a knowledge management consultant.

I promise to continue working, keep doing what I do and most of all, I promise to change my title.

The graphic to the left  illustrates a conversation at a recent meeting of online community enthusiasts (drawing by Nancy White).  We were asked to describe what we do for work to our grandmothers.  The answer that resonated with me most was telling your grandmother that you were a host.  For example, next time someone asks me what I do, I might tell them, what I do is similar to hosting a fantastic party.  I plan the party including the appropriate food, ambiance and people.  I do my best to ensure that conversations are interesting and everyone has a chance to talk and listen to everyone else.  I try to make it interesting and enjoy it when people have a good time.  Ideally, people leave the party with new ideas, new ways of thinking and plans for exciting activities they can do in the future. It needs a little work however I am quite sure this is not knowledge management.

A few years ago, when I worked for an international organization, my title was knowledge management  (KM) officer.  When moving to BC and taking up work as a consultant, I decided that KM would be my consultant title.  I now believe this was an inappropriate appropriation for me.  The difference is scale.  In large institutions, KM in its formal sense is necessary as experiences are taking place across the globe, from the field level all the way to the United Nations.  Finding ways to bridge hundreds of experiences, document key learnings and integrate lessons into policies for change is at the heart of KM.  In smaller environments, I suggest that bringing people into the same room, offering a meal and a chance to take the time to share, reflect and learn is somewhat similar.  The difference in my new environments is that we aren’t trying to manage things…. its about collaboration, learning and action.

So as I think about creating a new title, I reflect on what my work entails.  Mostly I manage complex community based projects.  However, within those projects, I aim to create environments for people to come together to learn, collaborate and integrate improved methods into their work.  My background is in sustainable development so often that is the underlying theme but its not necessary.  Given I live in a very small region, diversity is a strength so I won’t try to put my new title into a box just yet.  For now, I will try the title of “host”.

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