The Difference Between Networking, Coordinating, Cooperating, and Collaborating

I am participating in a fascinating online course on the Literacy of Cooperation, facilitated by Howard Rheinghold.  We are less than a full week into the course, and it is already a vibrant and “cooperative” learning community.  As we were getting started, I found myself wanting to begin with a working definition of cooperation, especially as it relates to similar words.  Howard directed us to a helpful article entitled, Collaboration for Change, where the authors offer such definitions.  As a tool for thinking about this, I developed a revised version of a table provided in the article (with some good feedback from other participants).  It is still a work in progress, but perhaps you will find it helpful as well.

Of particular interest to me is how each of these require different levels of trust, time and a willingness to share turf with others. I may push for a collaborative effort, but in order to do so, it will require the building of adequate trust among all stakeholders, a willingness to carve out enough time in our already busy schedules, and the vulnerability to share portions of our turf with one another.


2 Replies to “The Difference Between Networking, Coordinating, Cooperating, and Collaborating”

  1. Bernard Bull Post author

    Thanks for the comment! I always appreciate your insights, Mary. I think the article was largely exploring the difference in these terms within the constructs of many existing industrial-age organizations…probably more on the individual project/partnership level. And yet, exploring organizations/communities/collaboratives that live and breath a cooperative and/or collaborative spirit is very exciting to me. I can’t think of an example of an industrial age learning organization that fully transformed into this sort of an entity, although I see great potential in start-ups for this sort of a thing.

  2. Mary Hilgendorf

    The collaborative model requires huge systematic changes. It works very well in smaller informal learning communities, but it doesn’t work well in institutions that are structured in 20th Century top-down industrial models. The industrial model thrives on competition for working one’s way up the ladder. The unfortunate results are turf wars, the withholding of information to gain an edge over other competitors, snap decisions from the top tiers, and lack of trust.

    The 21st Century “Information Age” appears to embrace a participatory, collaborative model, especially since digital information is available to everyone. “It takes a village” to make sense of the information. There appear to be some leaders in the “tech world” and some “mega churches” who are experimenting with a collaborative model. It certainly gains greater “buy-in” and a sense of ownership for participants and stakeholders. It takes a courageous, innovative, and secure leader to model and guide the organization toward a collaborative model.

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