Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Modes of Seeking Collaboration


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I recently gave a talk at the ELearning Africa conference entitled Virtual Scholarly Collaboration for Development. The presentation is available on Haikudeck (will embed or post link in the morning… Not working from Android at the moment – ok done)

Virtual Collaborative Scholarship for Development – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

It’s gotten me thinking beyond what I talked about. My focus was on different types of scholarly collaboration (for research, for teaching, for learning and for professional development – a subtle difference from “just” learning). This particular presentation focused on power dynamics in such collaborations and especially when they take place between someone from a more developed country/context and someone from a less developed country/context. Because… AFRICA.

But right now I am thinking also about how one goes about encouraging others to start thinking about collaboration. And am thinking of different modes and spectrums and also technologies that support you in different places depending where you’re at.

So for example… As someone seeking collaboration, you can be in either

A. Listening mode: reading what other people are writing, listening to presentations at events, or searching for profiles on LinkedIn or browsing hashtags on Twitter. People who are e.g. I assume journal editors probably do this for special issues if they don’t get enough submissions. The listening mode can happen in both an “ongoing” and “targeted” manner depending on what’s happening in your life at the moment and your needs/interests

B. Broadcast mode: this is like when you just blog it or publish it or present it (in a not-necessarily interactive way) at a conference. This isn’t in the sense of literally broadcasting “hey anyone wanna collaborate on this?” but in the sense of “this is who i am and what i am working on these days” kinda thing which allows others just to know what you do in case they are interested in collaborating. I could call this “open to invitation” mode but not “inviting mode”. This can have both an ongoing or targeted manner but its targeted manner is likely to be closer to inviting mode

C. Interactive Mode: this is when you actively respond to other people’s blogs or seek them out to talk after their presentations. Or when you make a point of asking folks to comment on ir blog and make ur blog conversational…or make your conf presentations interactive enough that people get a chance to talk with you during and after. This works great as an ongoing manner of being online or at conferences but can be done in a more targeted manner as well.

D. Actively Inviting Mode: this is when you target particular types of collaboration with particular people but can be broadcast or done privately ; if you’re often in interaction mode in an ongoing way, you may find it easier to target particular people without broadcasting but sometimes you will broadcast to cast a wider net..depending on what you really need

As you will notice I mentioned targeted vs ongoing manners of seeking collaboration. I think being interactive in an ongoing manner facilitates things for when you need to target people. Being a listener helps you know people and being a broadcaster helps others know you…. But being interactive ongoing makes everything go more smoothly as it opens doors both ways – helps ppl know they can seek you and helps you seek others… Both to know whom to approach/seek/invite/target and to more likely get a favorable response. For example..Coz i was in interaction mode with Jim Groom I learned that he moved to Italy and could therefore invite him to keynote for AMICAL conference in Rome this year (also coz i was in interaction mode with AMICAL organizers and could make that happen).

I am wondering if what I just laid out here is at all a useful framework (ugh i hate frameworks) or if it’s so obvious it’s actually ridiculous… Or if it’s obvious for us who are “connected” or good networkers but not so much to others. Or uhh if someone else has already said it and i haven’t noticed. Any feedback welcome. And this is an invitational broadcast mode post πŸ™‚ but I will target some specific ppl if i don’t get enough responses πŸ˜‰


  1. Serendipitous mode. You aren’t actively seeking anything, but you arent closed to anything either, Rather you are open to explore, and to exploration.
    Rabbit-hole mode: You are pursuing your own process of exploration, very open to collaboration with those who burrow through and pop up in your tunnel, you widen the tunnel and set off together, while the paths converge. Actively and ruthlessly ignoring others though.
    Cell mode. Actively avoiding collaboration, monkish seclusion, a vital stage in collaboration.
    Sonar mode. Interaction prior to collaboration to find out where you are, a form of echolocation.
    Where’s the party mode. Collaboration as a displacement activity, or collaboration for its own sake.

    • Nick I absolutely LOVE THOSE. At the risk of being a little too meta…would you like to collaborate on fleshing these out into an actual paper or something? I am trying to figure out if what you have added are dimensions on a different plane (and would therefore interect in different ways with what i had written – e.g. ongoing interaction mode lends itself to serendipity but isn’t identical). Rabbit-hole mode is really cool too! I really like the almost literary way you are describing them (mine feel almost clinical in comparison).

      I wonder if there is also a cheerleader/supporter and matchmaker mode (2 different ones?) where you’re not actively collaborating but you are supporting others to collaborate. Possibly even a mode where you seek to create spaces for others to collaborate or make serendipitous encounters more frequent or such (like Virtually Connecting maybe? In that it provides opportunities for people to grow their PLN without having particular goals as a team even if participants do)

  2. I enjoyed your post Maha. I’ve thought about those modes many times but never quite articulated it as well as you have here. I really like how Nick has added on here too. I really love that you included listening as a form of collaboration. I think often listeners get a bad rap. I enjoy listening and often see it forgotten.

  3. Your posts are always inspiring in that they don’t just give ‘food for thought’, but provide a veritable banquet!
    The point about ‘being interactive ongoing makes everything go more smoothly as it opens more doors’, made me think of a saloon door. It swings open easily but is never properly closed as it cannot be locked, and you can visibly see whoever is stood behind it, as it is only hides their body. Relating this to the virtual – we often only know their face and their feet (digital footprints), but we recognise at the other side of the door. They likewise can see us at the other side of the door and we are free to go through the door whenever we feel the need to, or allow them to come through to our side.
    Thank you, Maha.

    • Love the saloon metaphor! Thanks for this comment πŸ™‚ I am now curious about your face and feet and guessing who you are πŸ™‚

  4. Hi Maha. It’s @HdtHeather! I have finally set up a blog and am still debating whether to add my ‘face’, as I feel I need to make my ‘feet’ better known…
    Glad you like the metaphor πŸ™‚

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