OpenKollab: inherent conflicts arising within generative collaboration spaces

SUBMITTED TO THE OPENKOLLAB LISTSERV: http://groups.google.com/group/openkollab/

Hey Folks,

I just drafted this as a part of a conference submission that I made and I would welcome your thoughts. Specifically, we have all come to realize that, even though we all share a passion for open collaboration and its potential, actually identifying what to collaborate on is much more difficult than you would think it should be.

I am interested in understanding why this is so and what we can do about it. There are a few thoughts below, but I still continue to be mostly puzzled…

OpenKollab: inherent conflicts arising within generative collaboration spaces

This paper will explore examples of conflict that have arisen in the development of OpenKollab (http://openkollab.com), an generative open collaboration environment that is developing a community of practice as well as tools and processes to foster collaboration amongst organizations with aligned missions. As a result it will discuss specific problems that have arisen during the actual practice of creating an open collaboration space. Potential solutions to the identified problems will then be suggested.

A generative open collaborative environment is one where a group, sharing a high level abstract goal (in our case a commitment to the benefits of open collaboration and a conviction that it can play a role in bringing about positive social change), but no definable or measurable goals, works together to identify such specific goals. Hence different sub projects can be identified and teams can be formed that can pursue these projects within the umbrella of a larger open collaboration environment.

It is our experience that generative open collaboration environments give rise to specific sorts of conflicts that need to be resolved. The challenges are great for those working on OpenKollab, but the rewards will be worth the effort since it is generative open collaboration environments that hold the promise of mass mobilization and coordination of action on a global scale.

The group’s mission has been driven by idealism, but we have learned the hard way that there are many pragmatic challenges that one must contend with. These challenges can be understood as conflicts that arise at many levels, including:

  • The mission of OpenKollab versus participants personal agendas
  • The mission of OpenKollab versus participating organizations
  • Conflicts arising from differing agendas of participating members and organizations.
  • Individual conflicts arising from lack of consensus in the formation of the vision.

All of these conflicts arise out of an inherent tension between the larger group, treated as an abstract entity, and the individuals (or sub-groups) that have a more tangible reality. At first glance it might seem as though the solution to the problem is to engage in sufficient dialogue to generate consensus. Practically speaking, this has proven to be more difficult than it would seem since consensus around high level principles does not necessarily lead to agreement on specific sub-projects and associated tasks.

If the larger objective is to bridge boundaries and create bonds in the spirit of collaboration, practical strategies to overcome these inhibitors will need to be developed.

To mitigate these inhibitors, we are working towards specific task and workflow procedures such as:

Autonomous Information Spaces With Simultaneous Content Publishing: technology mechanisms that allow content to be simultaneously published in a distributed fashion across different platforms (wiki’s, websites etc.)

Hybrid Branding Strategies: strategies that create a brand both for OpenKollab as well as the participating entities.

Commons based Reusable content: what is required is that workflows be structured so that work that is done for the collaborative group is work that can be leveraged by others within the collaborative community.

  • One groups output becomes another groups input
  • Flexibility given for content modification and re-use
  • Subject to commons based content licensing

These, and other such strategies for mitigating conflict in the development of generative collaborative spaces, will be described.

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Moving Forward!

It’s been a long time since my last blog entry. Much has changed in my life and this will be reflected in the blog as I move forward. Those of you that take the time to read some of my previous entries will note that the focus was highly abstract and theoretical.

As we move forward you can expect the content to be more balanced. Most of it will reflect what I am thinking about and working. Even so, due to the fact that there are some deep intuitions that underlie my opinions, one can expect the content to maintain a bit of a philosophical feel.

One easy way to get things going is to reference several documents that I have written in the last few months. These documents provide a good overview of what I am thinking about and working on:

Climate Change Collaboration Platform: A description of a platform and processes that could be used to develop collaborative processes within the climate change space. See: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc4gbgsj_71kxq8qhgs&hl=en

Open System Mobilization Platform: This is the very large vision for a platform that would enable very large numbers of people to collaborate in real time! See: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc4gbgsj_25hqc96xt3&hl=e

Ecosystem Collaboration Platform: This is a powerpoint presentation that contains a visual representation of the sort of platform that I think would make collaboration between organizations much more effective. You will need to download it from:http://www.mediafire.com/file/zt2wondwgmm/EcosystemCollaborationPlatform.ppt

Social Venture Investment Bank: This is a position paper exploring the viability of the creation of an investment bank in Canada, the purpose of which would be to finance social ventures.  You will need to download it from http://www.mediafire.com/file/hrimnoizwno/SocialVentureInvestmentBank_0312.09.doc

Let me know if you have any questions regarding any of these documents.

As we proceed, I’ll talk more about what I am doing to advance the ideas that are introduced in these documents.

Suresh Fernando