Learning to collaborate while collaborating

An interesting new paper by Rebecca Freeth on how to collaborate in interdisciplinary contexts. Originally posted on the Leverage Points blog.

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

By Rebecca Freeth

None of us was born knowing how to collaborate. We learn to collaborate. For most of us working as researchers or practitioners in the field of sustainability, collaboration is intrinsic to how we work. Which gives us endless opportunities to learn to collaborate while collaborating.

There’s ample evidence that projects designed for intensive collaboration, whether inter- or transdisciplinary, get watered down to “additive multidisciplinarity” (Roy et al., 2013: 745). This is at least in part due to failures to navigate collaboration challenges, from finding conceptual common ground to managing interpersonal tensions (Haider et al., 2017; Klein, 1996; Strober, 2011). Indeed, collaboration is “unabatedly demanding” (Defila and Di Giulio, 2018: 101). Even if you’re a researcher with considerable team experience, a new project can present novel and unexpected collaboration challenges. Learning to collaborate is life-long.

In the Leverage Points project, we also experienced some challenges. During my interviews…

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2 thoughts on “Learning to collaborate while collaborating

  1. Thanks Joern, this is a very interesting article. I wonder what are the skillset and competency differences between “conventional” collaboration (which require many of the skillsets mentioned in the article) and interdisciplinary collaboration? That is, what additive skills are needed for interdisciplinary research (and then for transdisciplinary)?

    • Dear Pail. Thanks for this question. I think you’re right in that all collaborations, regardless of the degree of homogeneity of members and whether they’re “conventional”, interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary, require a similar fundamental skillset.

      If you’ve had a chance to look at Table 3 of the full journal article, I would say that when it comes to inter- and transdisciplinary research, it’s worth building additional collaborative capacity particularly in response to epistemic and temporal challenges. In the full article, we refer to collaborative capacity as a combination of orientations (ways of being), knowledge (ways of thinking) and skills (ways of acting). Feel free to debate this further with me! Cheers, Rebecca

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