Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Trying to Define Civic Collaboration

Collaboration is everywhere.

Just in the last 24 hours, according to Google, we’ve been told that everyone from the Air Force to Kanye West, is working on a collaboration, and collaboration shapes everything from the quality of teaching to well-being in the workplace. Suffice to say, there’s a whole lot of collaboration going on.

But what is collaboration exactly? In my years of working to help others to collaborate, I've found that "coblaboration" is much more common than collaboration. And nearly everyone's definition of collaboration is somewhat different, in part because there are many different kinds of collaboration. I'd like to take a shot at defining a specific type of collaboration; the type that is required to bring sustained positive change to the complex civic systems that make up our communities. I call this kind of collaboration "civic collaboration."

My definition is full of terms that themselves need to be defined. Here's my latest shot at it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Civic Collaboration: A process used by diverse stakeholders from multiple sectors within a civic system to develop and sustain a high-performing network able to identify and achieve shared goals by assuming shared responsibility for aligning resources, coordinating actions, measuring progress and adapting.

Process: A structured series of functions and activities that enable stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of what is possible and a framework that helps to collectively pursue shared goals.

Stakeholders: Organizations, entities and individuals that shape the performance and outcomes within a civic system, including funders, governmental entities, residents, businesses and nonprofits.

Sectors: Defined segments of our communities, examples include the public sector, private sector, nonprofit sector and philanthropic sector.

Civic Systems: A set of independent, interconnected stakeholders that through their performance and their interactions influence key outcomes within our communities.  Civic systems cannot be controlled by any single or small group of entities.

High-performing Network: An interdependent web created when independent stakeholders within a civic system agree to a shared set of performance standards, rules of interaction and goals, and agree to assume shared responsibility for achieving those goals.

Shared Goals: Outcomes that independent stakeholders agree to pursue together.

Shared Responsibility: Independent stakeholders assume a portion of the responsibility for achieving shared goals. Stakeholders can articulate the specific actions that they will perform to fulfill their shared responsibility.

Resources: Financial, human and physical capital that is deployed to support individual or collective actions by stakeholders.

Actions: The programs, projects and initiatives undertaken by stakeholders, either acting individually or with others, that are designed to achieve specific outcomes, including achieving the shared goals identified by the high-performing network.

Measuring Goals: Stakeholders agree to set of metrics that will used to measure progress toward the shared goals.

Adapt: Stakeholders in high-performing networks use metrics to better understand the performance and outcomes of the system and adapt so that their actions result in improved performance and outcomes.

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