Social collaboration

Knowledge Base


Social collaboration refers to processes that help multiple people interact, share information to achieve any common goal. Such processes find their ‘natural’ environment on the internet, where collaboration and social dissemination of information are made easier by current innovations.

Sharing concepts on a digital collaboration environment often facilitates a “brainstorming” process, where new concepts may emerge due to the contributions of individuals, professional or otherwise. A crucial concept behind social collaboration is that ‘ideas are everywhere.’ Individuals are able to share their ideas, as it is not limited to professionals, but rather the general public who wishes to become involved.

What Makes Collaboration Work

In the book Collaboration: What Makes It Work (Mattessich, Murray-Close & Monsey, 2001) the authors describe Success Factors that influence the success of collaborations by non-profit organizations:

Environmental Factors

  • The community has a history of collaboration & cooperation
  • The community views participants as reliable and competent
  • The community supports the mission of the group

Membership Characteristics

  • Participants share a mutual understanding and respect for each other
  • The group includes representatives from each segment of the community who will be affected by its activities
  • Participants believe they will benefit from their involvement and that the advantages of the collaboration will offset costs
  • Participants are able to compromise

Process & Structure

  • Participants feel ownership in both the process and the outcome
  • Participants are open to the different ways of organizing and accomplishing work
  • The group understands their roles, rights and responsibilities and how to carry them out
  • The group is able to adjust through major changes


  • Participants interact often, keep each other updated, discuss issues openly, and share important information within and outside of the group
  • Participants establish personal connections with each other


  • Goals and objectives of the group are clear to all participants and can be easily attained
  • Participants share the same vision and agree on the mission, objectives and strategy/
  • The mission, goals, or approach of the group differ from the mission, goals or approach of the participant’s organizations


  • The group has adequate funds, a consistent financial base, staff and materials needed to support the group’s operations
  • The group has a skilled leader, someone with organizing and interpersonal skills who acts with fairness, who is respected by the participants

Social Collaboration vs. Social Networking

Social collaboration is related to social networking, with the distinction that social collaboration is more group-centric than individual-centric. Social networking services generally focus on individuals sharing messages in a more-or-less undirected way and receiving messages from many sources into a single personalized activity feed. Social collaboration services, on the other hand, focus on the identification of groups and collaboration spaces in which messages are explicitly directed at the group and the group activity feed is seen the same way by everyone.

Social collaboration may refer to time-bound collaborations with an explicit goal to be completed or perpetual collaborations in which the goal is knowledge sharing (e.g. community of practice, online community).


Social collaboration is similar to crowdsourcing as it involves individuals working together toward a common goal. Andrea Grover, curator of the 2006 crowdsourcing art show, Phantom Captain: Art and Crowdsourcing, explained in an interview that collaboration among individuals is an appealing experience, because participation is “a low investment, with the possibility of a high return. Social collaboration appeals to young entrepreneurs because of this notion.