Classes at the university are now over and final paper is done. While I wait for the graduation ceremony it’s time to share some results of my research. Basically the paper is about the collaborative environment provided by the Internet era. Four different areas of knowledge were analyzed: information technology represented by FLOSS projects, biomedicine represented by the Human Genome Project, social mobilization represented by the NGO Navdanya International and economy represented by Amazon’s business model. Based on the study of organizational structures, ways of communication and evolution of those initiatives, the technological, economical and social impacts of collaboration were analysed. In addition, key aspects for the success of culturally diverse and geographically disperse collaborative projects were identified. Here is a summary:
- Transparency: under two aspects. First: clear and public decisions. Second: open and broad communication, not only of decisions made but also of problems, accomplishments and general useful information. It’s important to state that transparency does not prevent misinterpretation or allegations of lack of information. On the other hand, transparency does help to provide crucial information for organizational/financial matters and to support current and future decisions.
- Knowledge of legal context: global projects tend to act over different jurisdictions and all stakeholders should be aware of that. Contributors should be constantly informed of legal differences between states and countries. For instance, the patent systems in some countries represent a big issue here.
- Conscience of cultural differences: participants should be aware that language and cultural differences might bring some asymmetries to communication. Even so, those differences must not prevent people from communicate and work together. Community organizers should be aware that societies from all over the world might have different interpretations of values such transparency and democracy.
- Open and proper infrastructure: collaboration initiatives should provide the tools for contributors to work on whatever is necessary. In addition, the infrastructure should be extensive in order to enable contributors to create new tools from the ones that already exist. Internationalization support is crucial for this element as well as information systems capable of provide high quality communication and minimize information dispersion.
- Face to face meetings: one thing common to the projects evaluated is that all of them foster face to face contacts. In big projects is hard to get everyone together, but conferences, workshops and training sessions, at least for key contributors, help to build trust and sense of community.
- Creation of value: collaboration projects should create value for contributors, whether they are companies, volunteers, paid employees, universities or government agencies. The value created can be knowledge, a product, meritocratic recognition, personal satisfaction or even financial results. It’s important that contributors know what they can achieve depending of their level and area of collaboration.
Well, the paper has a lot more information and this is just a tiny part I wanted to share here. I’ll publish the complete document here but it is written in Portuguese, so I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek in English!