Collaborating for the Environment

Recently, during a conversation about on-line community management and growth, a top executive from a small collaboration software vendor told me that collaboration was just great team building.

I understand how the difference between collaboration and team building can be blurry, but I walked away from that conversation feeling that vendors who believe such simplification of what collaboration is might have little to offer to their clients, specially those clients with lots to gain and lose from their environmental projects. This becomes particularly true if the vendor sees groups and teams as the same thing, as was the case with this top executive.

Although having team building skills is very important for those responsible for collaboration projects, great team building is not all of what collaboration is about.

Unlike groups where cooperation, sharing or simply connecting is the goal, collaboration is both a process and at least one defined valuable outcome that can only be achieved by the stakeholders who care enough about it and can do something to achieve it. Otherwise, who cares becomes the standard reaction.

One of the worst mistakes anyone responsible for collaboration could make is fail to recognize early on the important role this duality of process and outcome plays in collaboration and how this duality requires constant balance against the needs of the stakeholders that can achieve the desired outcome.

Collaboration = Process + Pursued Outcome + Buy-in from the Stakeholders that Can Achieve it by Working Together!

In structured environments, people won’t collaborate simply because you have built a great team and brought them together. People join forces if and when they see value.

The environmental challenges the world is facing can’t be addressed unless collaboration across all sectors happens. Environmental collaborative initiatives encompass some of the most complex and demanding aspects of collaboration and these projects can teach us great lessons about success and failure when the stakes are really high.

In the process of narrowing down the list of the environmental collaborative initiatives to be evaluated for the Collaborative Society Directory, it became clear that these projects’ leaders were aware of this process and outcome duality, as well as of the value of truly listening to the stakeholders that can make things happen.

Below is a list of some of the environmental collaborative projects that include participating entities from the three sectors of government, non-profits and for-profits. I will continue adding more as they are submitted or identified (thanks in advanced for visiting these sites):

BetterBuy: Making federal acquisition better. How can we use collaboration and social media to make the federal acquisition process more efficient and effective?

Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool: Green Electronics Made Easy – a system that helps purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes.

Environmental Defense Fund
: Partners with businesses, governments and communities to find practical environmental solutions.

EPE Pick 5 for the Environment
: Do more to protect the environment by choosing at least five actions you’ll commit to.

SolarTac: The Solar Technology Acceleration Center – An integrated, world-class test facility where the solar industry can research, test, validate, and demonstrate solar technologies.

Sustainable Conservation: Advances the stewardship of natural resources using innovative, pragmatic strategies that actively engage businesses and private landowners in conservation

World Wild Life: or more than 45 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The world’s leading conservation organization, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally.

I’ll publish a post per each of these organizations as I complete the interviews and gathering of the main lessons learned.

If you are familiar with other projects that include entities from the three segments (government, non-profits and for-profits) please submit them. Those are the most complex types of collaboration initiatives from which we could all learn, because although collaboration isn’t new, quick, or easy, the outcomes are unmatchable.

What is this all about?
The Collaborative Society Directory’s goal is to collect and understand information from different collaborative projects that bring together as participants entities from the three forces that shape our societies: public, private and non-profit. The goal of The Collaborative Society is to explore if such information can provide us with insights of what could be the characteristics that make a society or a community healthy.

(cross-posted in and TFCN)

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This is very useful. I agree with you on collaboration. It is not just some kum-by-yah…where everyone is happy. Collaboration is only useful to solving a problem. And depending on the problem there is different needs of collaboration. Some require small group of experts. Some want a diversity of ideas. Some are for brain-storms of possibilities. Some is to move a discrete problem a step forward.