For the past couple of months, I’ve had opportunity after opportunity come my way to collaborate with people that are doing similar work out in the world as I am.  This brings up an interesting question: in a society that is largely built on competition, can collaboration become the norm?

This topic has come up in several conversations lately, and I though I would explore it a little bit here.  I was on a call earlier with a fellow documentarian that was talking about the great content that she has from coastal Louisiana after the oil spill.  We commented on the fact that there are a plethora of talented individuals and community groups that have been following the stories and producing very engaging content.

But where is the collaboration between these groups?  You have to look pretty hard these days to find stories on the Gulf oil spill, yet many bootstrapped organizations are putting their heart and soul into spreading awareness day after day, our Spirit of the Gulf Coast initiative included.

CollaborationIt seems to me that there is a missing piece – a place online for people to go and find helpful resources on the recovery effort and connect those who are following the stories with each other so that collectively their voices can gain more recognition. To be clear, there are valiant efforts by several groups to rally people together, but In terms of robust online community resources for sharing information, I’m just not seeing it.

At a core level, isn’t that what social networks and other community platforms like eBay and Craigslist do?  If you think about it, sites like eBay allow individuals to have a mechanism to sell their stuff to a massive international audience that they could not afford to target on their own.  Entire businesses have been built using this platform, yet collaboration works side by side with competition.  The collaboration piece is the use of a shared audience and code base, while the competition aspect is largely reputation and cost of the individual sellers.

Even sites like Facebook (and to an extent MySpace) provide a platform for people, businesses, bands, etc. to essentially collaborate and share the wealth of opportunities to connect with others in the network. No one brand, band, or other business has a lock on the audience, but they are willing to promote in an environment where ‘their people’ can stumble on other competitive products and services easily.  See how this gets interesting?

I wonder if more resources and collaborative communities will begin to pop up to serve a greater social purpose and encourage larger entities to work together in order to solve some of the colossal global challenges we face with society at large. Can we bring together the best, smartest, most creative thought leaders from various disciplines to share a greater vision for the world as a whole?

I don’t have the answer today, but I thought the question was worth asking.  Can we learn from other successful models and let our guards down long enough to find solutions together, or will these entities continue to hold their cards close to the vest in the hopes that they are the ones left with the winning hand in the end?

Personally, I think it’s going to take a relentless innovative drive combined with an open, collaborative spirit to move us into a new golden era of humanity.  The stakes are high.  Do you think we can get there?


Photo: Terrell Clark