Diminishing Degrees Of Separation: Developing Collaborative Approaches Across Sectors

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The spider’s web of collaboration: Are you weaving the threads, dodging the spider or getting caught in the web?

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Everyone appreciates a good system, but how do we get there? For the complex endeavors of science communication, engagement and research uptake, collaboration among various stakeholders is the key to success.  At present, there are various networks in Australia, including the Inspiring Australia officers, that are fitting the jigsaw pieces together- across industries, research organisations, scientists, educators, communicators, government etc.

This type of collaboration clearly makes a lot of sense, but could our networks be better collaborating and maximizing our impacts?  At #bigsci13 the Stream 4 Workshop met to collaborate about collaborating, here are some notes from our workshop.

Diminishing Degrees of Separation workshop participants outlining impediments to collaboration

Diminishing Degrees of Separation workshop participants outlining impediments to collaboration

Step 1: Define the impediments

Some of the complex roadblocks to collaboration we identified include

  • Insular organisations
  • Unclear program objectives
  • Lack of scientific approach for continued improvement of communication programs
  • Lack of common goal or language
  • Lack of time, resources and funding
  • Rivalry for resources and funding
  • Limited experiences outside sector/ not enough interdisciplinary professionals
  • Risk-adverse communication strategies
  • Lack of incentives to collaborate
  • Difference in opinion on best strategies
  • Bureaucracy and organisational structure isn’t flexible or conducive to collaborating
  • Exclusive networks that are difficult to access
  • Communication strategies are often not defined at project’s conceptions, often an afterthought
  • Collaborations are $-based, not offering in-kind of sharing expertise
  •  Fear of losing ownership and control (branding wars)
  • Organisations don’t know who to collaborate with
Diminishing Degrees of Separation workshop participant voting on solutions to impediments

Diminishing Degrees of Separation workshop participant voting on solutions to impediments

Step 2: Solutions to impediments

Some of the solutions to the impediments that were discussed during our workshop include:

  • We need to provide evidence that collaborations can work! That they are useful and actively encourage them by emphasing the mutual benefits
  • To create recognition of collaborations, we need to define the financial value of the collaboration.
  • We should inform stakeholders on the benefits, rewards and outcomes of the collaboration
  • We need to agree on common goals and objectives from the project’s beginning. This will save time, money, resources and shapes the strategic approach to ongoing collaboration
  •  To increase available resources we need to communicate the benefits of the outcomes to a broad audience -> prioritise outcome -> mobilise resources. We need to also be more efficient and creative.
  • For bureaucracies and organisational structures that hinder collaboration we need to create ad hoc networks with a common language
  • We need to make the project relevant to the parties involved: benefit focused.  It must include each collaborators ‘must haves’
  • We need to find common ground and a common purpose
  • Embed science communication into schools, universities and contextualise science for different audiences
  • Build a communication strategy into grants and fund explicitly
  • Promote willingness to share expertise
  • Formal agreements are essential
  • Clear rules of engagement from the start
  • Encourage focus on open access to data and knowledge
  • To find collaborators- tap into the strength of weak ties, and make the most of existing networks
  • For success we need buy-in from senior organisation leaders that  the collaboration will drive own organisation’s goals
  • Leaverage in-kind support
  • Promote a willingness to share expertise
  • Views conflicts as opportunity.benefit and diversity a resources,
  • Strengthen networks that are open to ‘outsiders’

.. and this is just the beginning!

Please add you ideas and solutions to the comments below or tweet to #bigsci13 to join the conversation.

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  1. [...] This type of collaboration clearly makes a lot of sense, but could our networks be better collaborating and maximizing our impacts? At #bigsci13 the Stream 4 Workshop met to collaborate about collaborating, here are some notes from our …  [...]