Integral Community Building & Collaboration Ecology – 02 Community & Collaboration

A human community in its very essence is a network of conversations. Communities are held together by the stories they tell, to each other and to the outside world, and by the beliefs they share — even though opinions might greatly differ. The emergence of a global civilization or community is therefore much more a result of global conversations that the Internet has made possible (for instance, the rise of the so-called blogosphereF[1]F and the ever increasing number of social networks) than the rising tides of globalization, which is solely thought of in economic terms.Memory and language are often regarded as distinguishing characteristics of human beings. When humanity started to use language, information and knowledge could much easier be shared, a development that led to a leap in societal diversity and complexity. The next leap was caused by the invention of writing and the one after that by the discovery of mathematics. A greater leap in societal diversity and complexity was fostered by the invention of the printing press, hugely enhancing the possibility to store information and knowledge. The telegraph, the telephone, television, multimedia, the Internet, all these developments exponentially furthered diversity and complexity of our societies and of the conversations that are now possible. Our capacity to tell stories, store, spread, create and manifest them is growing exponentially, and so is diversity and complexity, both developments go hand in hand.

Where in the past there was usually enough time for societies and communities to catch up turning knowledge into understanding and eventually wisdom, this seems to be impossible today for who could keep up with the exponential growth of information and knowledge, diversity and complexity in human societies? But this is only so if we see this development from an individual’s point of view. If on the other hand we regard humanity as a whole, being comprised of an ever expanding number of diverse communities, then the potential of this evolution is becoming apparent. We are facing an unprecedented challenge, because to turn the vastly growing knowledge into know-how, understanding and eventually wisdom we absolutely need to create forms and processes to coherently activate our collective and collaborative intelligence, and we need to do so on all levels and every scale.

Collaboration is easily confused with but greatly differs from cooperation. When people, organizations or companies cooperate they don’t need to jointly develop shared understandings and trust; it is enough that participants, for instance, simply execute instructions willingly or do what they agreed upon previously. The desired outcome is relatively clear, whereas in collaboration it is mostly unpredictable, and collaborators more often than not embark upon a path of innovation and creation which will lead them they know not where.
Clearly collaboration is a much more complex and demanding process than cooperation, and this so also because it needs to rely on trust and on a joint commitment to shared understandings or values.
F[2]F As such it is a process that already embarks from within a situation that is full of diversity and complexity, and therefore it is also a process whose time has come in an age of its inevitable exponential growth as I’ve shown above.

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[1] The whole of what is being published in blogs providing commentary or news on particular subjects or functioning more like personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art, photographs, videos (often called vlog), music, audio (called podcasting) and are part of a wider network of social media. The global blogosphere consists of approximately 250 million blogs.

[2] It is equally important to differentiate what in this article is understood as collaboration from what is seen as such in the Internet. If you google collaboration you will get around 167 million documents to choose from. Skimming the first 100 or so it seems obvious that collaboration is generally regarded as — the sum of all logical and target group oriented workflows in and between companies — to cite one document. The ‘net is full of so called collaboration-software and tools. But it is very clear that what is regarded as collaboration is what we covered above as being cooperation, ‘working together on something’, where it could simply be enough to execute instructions willingly.

Integral Community Building & Collaboration Ecology – The Knowledge Age

I’ll be posting some thoughts I’m having that’ll probably be incorporated into an upcoming article.

The industrial age is slowly being replaced by what has been called the informational age. With the advance of the Internet information is turned into knowledge by millions day and night — knowledge being information that is useful for deciding, acting upon, or composing further or new knowledge. The knowledge-age will most likely in due time give way to an age of understanding, as the knowledge that is being gathered and created worldwide becomes understanding; for it is understanding, not knowledge, that allows us to conceive, anticipate, evaluate and judge matters. Eventually we might even reach an age of wisdom as our understanding becomes guided by deep purpose, by ethics, principles, and appreciative inquiry into the sources, heritage and future of humanity and planet.

Still living in the information- and at the beginning of the knowledge-age we are living with information that is valued on the basis of being separable, objective, linear, mechanistic, and measurable, and that is being thought of and treated as a scarce resource which often enough is made scarce by laws shielding it against free dissemination[1]F; whereas actually information and knowledge’s basic characteristic is one of abundance  — it doesn’t become less by being used and actually profits from free and large dissemination[2]F.

A growing number of people are discovering creative and new ways to handle knowledge. They recognize that knowledge creation, meaning and use are dynamic processes that emerge from interactions between people in communities and social structures. The Internet, and in particular values-based social and collaboration networks invigorate peer-to-peer learning and knowledge creation. This potentially creates the possibility of an economy not based on scarcity, leveling the field in which people can participate. In a knowledge based economy success is not the result of collections (of information or goods) but of connections.



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[1] For instance, instead of using restrictive copyrights we could create rights that would share eventual profits created through or from a piece of information fairly to everybody involved in its creation. (This is assuredly difficult but not beyond possibility.)


[2] The Open Source movement in software, the Wikipedia, social networks, the peer2peer movement etc. are great examples for the accelerating abundance that shared knowledge enables us to create together.