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Collaborating using a marketplace concept

Yesterday I had the privilege of running a workshop for some social enterprises and charity organisations. One of the topics we were brainstorming on was a Marketplace to share and collaborate on knowledge.
Being an often resource-poor community, it would be beneficial for these organisation to have a place to collaborate and share ideas and knowledge among themselves.

We had this discussion on how they are already marketplace for physical items such as donated furniture, but nothing for them in terms of knowledge. Examples are sharing templates for writing grant applications, best practices around event organisation, etc.

This is exactly what we meant by Social Business!

Using a lot of the tools and techniques that we practice in our social lives and applying them to a work environment. The concept is very similar to how Linkedin is used as opposed to Facebook.

Let me share an example of one of the use cases I am working on:

Ability to share best practices around organising an event

Imagine being able to share and reuse event templates such that even a novice or volunteer can have a checklist that has been proven successful in a similar organisation. A very simple way to do this would be create activities template that can be shared and reused.


Collectively, all the agencies can pool their experiences to improve the task list and share valuable information to ensure a successful event even with less experienced staff or volunteers.

Consideration for such a “marketplace” to work

While the concept is excellent in theory and pretty straight forward to implement within a single organisation, there are some practical hurdles to overcome for this to work across multiple organisations.

Let me share some of concerns which was produced during the workshop:

  • Confidentiality
  • Relevancy
  • Management
  • Participation
  • Policies/code of conduct for use

I will share some of the ways we can overcome some of these concerns:


Many people are afraid to share their material for fear of leaking any sensitive data. I think there are a two issues to address here:

Are people afraid to share? Is there a culture to reprimand people who share information or perceived to be crossing their job boundaries?

Clear Policies
Are there clear policies to help people determine what they can share? It would be good to have a quick cheat sheet to help do a quick litmus test on the information they want to share.


Will the stuff I share be useful to anyone else? I think this can addressed by trying to brake down the knowledge into smaller sections of data. For example, instead of a large event project plan (which maybe useful to some), parts of it can be extracted and share as smaller plans (catering plan, communication plan, etc)

Also, when someone shares a plan and if another person use it to create a more generalised version, it would be helpful to post the new version up for discussion/sharing, in this way, the entire community can help make the shared knowledge more relevant and useful.

The use of “Likes” and comments can also help float up more useful knowledge during a search, therefore active participation is very important in any collaboration effort.


This is a very important function yet also very delicate -- how much control/moderation you want to place on the community vs. how much open conversation you want to encourage.
Do you want/need to do housekeeping on shared knowledge? The good thing is that as this space matures, a lot of best practices have evolved and many places you can take classes in online community management.


A sharing platform is only as good as its active members. they must be a plan to encourage participation and contribution.

You’ve got to understand the audience, also identify the active contributors and find ways to keep them contributing. There should also be activities to encourage people to interact with comments, likes, discussions, etc. It should be noted the you will never find 100% participation in any community, a good estimate is about 15% active contributors, 65% consumers, and the rest may never participate in sharing.

Tips on how to promote participation should be part of the above mentioned community manager training.

Policies/Code of Conduct

It was interesting to note that many organisation have yet to publish social platform usage policies and guidelines. The good news is, there are many organisations that have and are willing to share their guidelines. A good example is the IBM Social Computing Guidelines that has been created by employees and has been update as technology and culture changes. I highly encourage organisations to have one in place as whether you like it or not, people will use the public social platform to talk/discuss about things from work.

This is just a very brief blog on a small area of social collaboration - feel free to contact me to find out more!


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