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A Look at Various Models of Collaboration

written by: George Garza•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 4/10/2011

Those in collaboration or group work strive to accomplish a goal that cannot be accomplished by one person alone. Team sports are a perfect example of having many people work together to accomplish one goal, to win the game. Here are some different models of collaboration that accomplish that task.

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    What is Collaboration?

    Collaboration involves different people working together to accomplish something that ordinarily cannot be accomplished alone.Sports operations are frequently a team effort, like baseball, basketball, or football. Sometimes they are not, like golf or billiards. But in both of those examples the goal is winning. That is the objective. With team sports it takes collaboration to win. Other examples of collaboration are a group of surgeons working together in an operating room; firemen putting out a fire; policemen trying to stop a criminal activity; even Congress trying to pass laws for the benefit of the country. In all there are several different objectives that make collaboration possible and necessary. These different objectives are projects, goals, processes, content, and communities.

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    Community Coalition

    The community coalition model is one of the most assessable models of collaboration. Here the collaboration focus is to concentrate the collective power of the members and focus it on action. Congress is an example of community coalition. Typically there are membership guidelines, operating procedures and bylaws; usually there are governance structures and elected leadership positions. With that in place consider how Congress has to work to pass a law: First you have to be an elected member (or appointed by the governor of your state), then committees are formed. Committee meetings are held. And drafts of the laws are put in place, and then both chambers (Senate and House) pass the law. In all of this the goal is clear, to pass a particular law and then present ways in the Congressional community to pass it and have the President sign it.

    US Congress 

    There are tools that make collaboration possible; see Top 5 Examples Of Telecommunication Collaboration Tools

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    Communities of Practice

    In this model, learning guilds or learning communities come together to support the development of shared expertise and competencies. Here you share ideas and create discussions. Medical, legal, finance and accounting associations are just some examples where the expertise of the practice must be studied and the results distributed to all in that community to keep it functioning in a competent manner.

    See Also: Advantages and Disadvantages of Collaboration in the Workplace

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    A third model for collaboration is found in the concept of developing a cooperative. The difference here from the community of practice model is that cooperatives frequently work in an informal setting, whereas the communities of practice are formal. While the goals may be in some ways similar to the communities of practice, how they reach them is different. Usually there are seven principles relating to cooperatives. They are membership, control, participation, autonomy, learning, networking and social responsibility. Think of an astronomy club that meets once a month. Here the participants have a common hobby, astronomy, and are willing to make an effort to learn about the subject, with others, in an informal setting.

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    A different collaboration model is co-housing. This is because by its nature co-housing involves property ownership and management concepts in which groups of individuals co-own homes that have the dual elements of social contact (all individuals) and individual space. In this model, you may have an objective of creating a community with individuals who want to share the same life style. In that regard, you can have common facilities in the community, like play space, open space, courtyards, and even shared living space areas like a communal kitchen.

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    Industry Clusters

    The last collaborative model, industry clusters, means that groups of companies share the same maket-space in a particular geographic location. Take the relationship of Microsoft and Intel. Microsoft designs software. Intel designs hardware chips. But the requirements that Microsoft wants its software to meet must be in tune with the hardware specifications that Intel can provide. Microsoft needs Intel. Intel needs Microsoft. And what is even more important is that they must share a common goal, to make their product work well with a different technology. Why? Because without this common goal, neither technology will work well, if at all.

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    These different collaborative models speak to different aspects of projects, goals, processes, content, and communities. Collaboration involves working different groups and having something in common that they are trying to attain. It is also something that must be done with others, not individually.

    See Also: 9 Key Elements of Successful Collaboration

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    Sources Facilitating Collaboration: Five Potential Models, attributed to Mark, at

    Sullivan, Bryan. Mercurial - The Definitive Guide. Chapter Six, Collaborating with Other People, at

    Frappaolo, Carl. Collaboration: If It Were That Easy, We Would All Do It, at

    Image: Wikipedia Commons,