“Collaboration Over Time”

There is a chapter in Keith Sawyer’s Group Genius book titled Collaboration Over Time where Sawyer refers to several inventions and discoveries, including Morse’s first working telegraph line and Darwin’s The Origin of the Species to make the point that:

Collaboration makes the mind more creative because working with others gives you new and unexpected concepts and makes it more likely that your mind will engage in the most creative types of conceptual creativity…

Sawyer also uses several cases to illustrate that the most impacting innovations are developed over time, usually involving a good deal of collaboration, and that often:

An outsider with no prior knowledge or expertise hears the same information as other people; suddenly he has a leap of insight that changes the world.

As we continue to find new ways to use the World Wide Web to connect and work better with each other and to empower ourselves with collective knowledge available at our fingertips, we will continue generating insights that change the world—possible at a pace so fast that only retrospectively could we recognize the impact.

For fifteen years now, the San Francisco-based non-profit Sustainable Conservation (SucCon) has been engaging businesses and private landowners into advancing the stewardship of natural resources using innovative and pragmatic strategies.

The project I would like to submit today to be considered for the Collaborative Society Directory is SusCon’s Brake Pad Partnership project, which brings together industry, government, and community groups to research the potential environmental impacts of brake pad debris shed through normal wear.

My first reaction when I learned about this project last year was “brake pads, really?”

But, last week, while watching a video where the speaker asked the question why does it take so long for the automobile industry to address problems whose solutions have already been identified decades earlier? I remembered Sawyer’s point about outsiders sometimes being the ones who bring about the needed changes. That made me dig up all the collaborative projects I had collected around the automobile industry to find out if any was directly or indirectly generating industry changes from the outside. The Brake Pad Partnership satisfied the first Collaborative Society Directory’s requirement of bringing entities from the government, for-profit and non-profit sectors together to try to address a social challenge, in this case an environmental one.

The project accomplished building a partnership that conducted a 10 year-long research and drafted the SB 346 (Kehoe) bill, one of many initiatives across the country that are seeking changes to take place in different industries based on environmental impact issues.

There are many cases where collaborative partnerships bring about changes to industries from the outside. However, partnerships of entities from the three sectors to achieve industry changes are hard to find and many of the reasons are obviously economic and political ones.

If you know of any such partnerships, please share them with us at The Collaborative Society.

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 at http://www.collaborativesociety.com)

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