This week gave us an introduction to how online communities learn, different phases and challenges to online collaboration, and different ways to address these. I found this topic not only interesting, but also timely in the development of our own internal group dynamics. There was some tendencies for “social loafing“, and the module gave us ways of thinking and strategies to overcome it – implicitly.

I found Siemens (2002) (referred to in Brindley et al. 2009description of different types of online collaboration very clarifying:

Communication – People ‘talking,’ discussing
Collaboration- People sharing ideas and working together (occasionally sharing resources) in a loose environment
Cooperation- People doing things together, but each with his or her own purpose
Community- People striving for a common purpose

From a researcher point of view, especially for those of us who work across disciplines and with actors outside of academia (transdisciplinary research), making a serious advancement requires that you are able to create a community.

One occasion when real collaborative learning took place in this regard for me, was our work with understanding how financial institutions (banks, institutional investors, insurance companies) support the modifications of the climate system and the world’s most important biomes – tropical rainforests. This field of work began started on my initiative a few years ago (4 years maybe), and slowly over time and by combining both digital tools and IRL meetings, we have made very good process and created a very successful and productive learning process.

Just to give you an very short summary: in early 2014, we coordinated a crash course called “finance for ecologists” with invited speakers, and discussion seminars. All was coordinated over a Tumblr-blog, including course material and videos. After the explorative first year, we managed to find a way to frame our work and published this article. That lead to the idea to focus even further, and work with financial data, but based on a climate science and ecological understanding of it. The project proposal was successful (end of 2016), and included academic and non-academic partners from outside of Sweden. Through numerous digital tools and occasional IRL meetings in and outside of Stockholm, we engaged in blended learning over time, all work summarized here:

The map below visualizes the number of financial institutions we have engaged with, and their individual Assets Under Management (AUM). This is a simple metric of our impact to simply illustrate the global reach of our work in dialogue with the finance sector, and the type of actors that have contributed to this collaborative learning journey.

We would not have gotten here without getting to a stage when we moved from Cooperation, to Community. I believe one key success was the effort out in to keep this group together with a common vision, and to make sure to nurture insights that emerge from a truly collective learning process.   

Topic 3: Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning