Collaboration allows people to refine ideas in debate and in encounters with difference - difference of experience, of perspective, of values. A diversity of opinions strengthens projects because collaborators are challenged to confront their individual assumptions and either come to agreement as a group or make space to consent to individual expression or dissensus. Collaboration often means balancing (inter)personal growth and project output, allowing collaborators to speak up and transform one another as well as the project. But most people have no experience of democracy at school, at home, or at work, so shared decision making is difficult. Collaborative projects help people learn how to make decisions together, be informed, and be open to changing their opinions.

I recommend trying the following practices for both personal projects and for group work:



for Personal Projects


1. You already have what you need. 
2. Just start, try it for 20 minutes. 
3. Make it for a specific person or group. 
4. Live with it for life, recycle it, or give it away. 
5. It's not that serious, really!
6. If you finish it early, you won't die.



For Group Work


1. Critical Participatory Action Research methods: so those most impacted design the research

2. Meditation: to hold the space

3. Asset Mapping: to identify what a community has (and Trade School in case you want to start one)

4. Intergroup Dialog :to listen to one another and identify what is urgent in the group

5. Paul Ryan’s Threeing: to think about communication and how we speak to one another

6. Dot Voting: to make quick decisions

7. Of Supply Chains: Caroline Woolard, Emilio Poppe, and Susan Jahoda are working on to think about systems

8. Service Design Touchpoint Matrix: to be clear about the experience a participant will have

9. When to pay, gift, or barter: by Caroline Woolard

10. W.A.G.E.’s fee calculator: to ask for funding from institutions




What ideas will we communicate to one another when we use the terms collaboration, cooperation, coordination, collectivizing, commoning, and community? This is a working document that aims to clarify terms so that we might communicate more clearly, distinguishing practices of togetherness (verbs) from forms of coordination (nouns). These definitions come from the New Oxford American Dictionary, and are contested. We will refine and reevaluate these terms to work in our own contexts.


Practices: describing WHAT you’re doing (verbs)

When you coordinateyou bring different elements of a complex activity or organization into a relationship that will ensure efficiency or harmony. [Watch: Clay Shirkey, Institutions vs. Collaboration]

When you facilitate, you make an action or process easy or easier for the people involved, working with a group process to ensure the process is upheld. [Read: Starhawk, The Empowerment Manual]

When you participateyou take part. [Read: Sherry Arnstein A Ladder of Citizen Participation and the IAPP diagram]

When you collaborateyou work jointly on an activity, especially to produce something. [Read Ann Marie Thompson, Conceptualizing and Measuring Collaboration]

When you cooperateyou act jointly, especially toward the same end. Or, you assist someone or comply with their requests. [Read: Richard Sennett, Together: the Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation]

When you collectivizeyou organize something on the basis of ownership by the people or the state, abolishing private ownership or involvement. [Read Raymond Williams, Keywords and Critical Art Ensemble, Observations on Collective Cultural Action]

When you commonyou manage shared resources that belong to, are open to, or affect the whole community. [Read Raymond Williams,Keywords and Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons]

When you communeyou are in intimate communication or a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas. [Read Raymond Williams, Keywords and Richard Sennett The New Political Economy and Its Culture]


Forms of Coordination: describing HOW we gather together (nouns)

You’re in a Group when a number of people or things are located close together or are considered or classed together. [Examples: a family, a club, a partnership, a gang, a movement, an alliance, a partnership, and ALL forms listed below.]

You’re in a Collaborative when you share responsibility for actions, resources, or your identity over time. Every collaborative has different agreements, norms, and explicit or implicit rights and responsibilities. [Visit: Hester Street Collaborative]

You’re in a Collective when you share responsibility for actions, resources, or your identity over time. Every collective has different agreements, norms, and explicit or implicit rights and responsibilities. [Visit: WOW Cafe Theater, Interference Archive, Bluestockings, Art and Labor]

You’re in a Cooperative when you follow the 7 Principles of Cooperation: voluntary and open membership, democractic member control, member economic participation, autonomy, sharing information, cooperation among cooperatives, and concern for community. [Visit: Park Slope Food Cooperative and NYC NoWC]

You’re in a Hierarchical Firm when decision-making occurs by communicating with your immediate superior and then informing your immediate subordinates. NOTE: This internal organizational structure [hierarchy] does not make external collaboration impossible. [Visit: IDEO, Google, FaceBook, MeetUp]

You’re in a Commons when you benefit from, access, or manage land or resources that belonging to or affect the whole of a community of commoners. [Visit: The Brooklyn Commons or Maine Lobster Fisheries]

You’re in a “Community” when you are part of: a body of people who live in the same place, usually sharing a common cultural or ethnic identity’ (OED I2a); a group of people who share particular ‘circumstances’, such as their race, religion or sexuality; the ‘civic body to which all belong: the public; society’; or a shared or common quality or state, as in the idea of community ties, or the fact of having a quality or qualities in common. [Read Raymond Williams Keywords, Etienne Wenger’s Communities of Practice, and visit: your local Community Board]

You’re in a Commune when you’re part of a group of people living together and sharing possessions and responsibilities. [Visit: Ganas Intentional Community]