OUR TOOLS

We develop, test, and refine a lot of powerful tools to help people solve complex problems together—and we share freely. Because by helping you succeed in making the world a better place, we also succeed, even if we never actually work with you.

Please note that some of the resources are easy to use "right out of the box" while others may require some training or support. If you have any questions about using a tool, please let us know.

The Collaborative Innovation Methodology

These resources provide the basic process model and introductions to organizing the work of complex change.

Collaborative Innovation Roadmap

A layered guide to the collaborative innovation process, showing the stages, steps, work products, success factors, and patterns in a typical social change initiative. Useful for collective impact, supply chain, and other types of multistakeholder collaborations.

How Innovation Networks Work

An infographic of our Collaborative Innovation approach for solving tough problems.

7 Ways the Work Gets Done  

One of the beautiful – and powerful – things about innovation networks is that the work of the group gets advanced in many ways and at many levels. Here's an overview of the most common ways work is advanced.

6 Patterns in Collaborative Innovation  

While collaboration can be emergent and messy, certain patterns do tend to show up in the work. Seeing and effectively leveraging these patterns makes the shared work more efficient and productive. Here are 6 key patterns you can harness and shape to help any collaboration work better. We hope these patterns help you think about how to lead your own collaborations more effectively.

Stage 1. Aligning Shared Intent

Powerful change starts with a powerful intent that attracts people, energy, and resources to the work. After all, as the great Yogi Berra put it, "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else."

Designing a Powerful Shared Intent

A clear and powerful shared intent is fundamental to the success of any collaboration. Use this guide to learn how to keep diverse stakeholders at the table despite their differences, generates energy and momentum to fuel the work, and establishes the focus for everyone to stay on track amidst competing distractions and political forces.

Creative Tensions in Collaborative Innovation

This is a capture of the most common creative tensions that we leverage in developing effective innovation networks. These tensions can either tear groups apart or become sources of profound innovation.

We'd love to hear of your own experiences with these.

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NEW! Four Elements of Collaborative Leadership

Ever heard of "use of self"? It's the idea that we can use ourselves as powerful instruments of change, often in service of a greater good. But what is use of self and how do we cultivate powerful use of self? This resource identifies and gives insights into what we see as four key elements.

Stage 2. Connecting the Change System

Taking the time to cultivate an optimal mix of diverse stakeholders to lead the change is key to changing any system. And by being intentionally selective, you're actually being more inclusive of the full diversity of the system.

Collaborative Innovator Attributes

To advance the work quickly and powerfully, we seek out high-leverage stakeholders who are well-positioned to drive innovation and influence others in the system. These Collaborative Innovators have certain characteristics, each of which represents a key tension between two seemingly opposing values.

Adoption of Innovation Model

Based on the pioneering research of Everett Rogers on how innovations spread throughout social networks, this model is helpful for identifying which stakeholders to engage in spreading social innovations too. Our version of the model identifies the unique roles of various groups in developing, translating, and scaling social innovations.

The Four Voices of Collaborative Innovation

We want to make sure that all the right voices are in the room in our collaborative innovation initiatives. The Four Voices of Collaborative Innovation, based the Four Voices framework conceived by our friends Jim Scully and John Body at ThinkPlace, helps us ensure that we have the voices of Intent, Experience, Expertise, and Design, and provides examples for how to bring those voices into your work.

The Five Levels of Engagement 

As a baseline assessment for collective impact initiatives, we like to learn from working group members what level of engagement they believe they’re operating at. Using the 5 Levels of Engagement Model, we ask the group:

  1. What level are you leading at now?

  2. What level do you need to lead to realize the greater goal?

  3. What will it take to get to that level of engagement?

12 Tools to Foster Alignment & Collaboration 

Here's a small kit of simple tools that we often use to help minimize resistance and polarization in groups so they can get and stay aligned in the work and collaborate effectively.

 

Try these out, and let us know how they worked for you!

4 Agendas in Collaborative Innovation

When designing any meeting, there are really four agendas in play (besides any hidden agendas!). Based on the phases of the Collaborative Innovation Roadmap, this tool helps leaders think through the optimal mix of those four agendas to help the group Connect, Align, Learn, and Make what they need to advance their work effectively.

Innovation Network Roles 

A brief overview of the key roles that various participants might fill in a collaborative innovation network. 

Innovation Network Structure  

A handy overview of the key elements of the structure of a collaborative innovation network. 

Building Trust by Giving & Receiving Feedback  

Here's a reliable and effective approach to handling feedback with stakeholders in a way that builds understanding and trust while improving behaviors that are interfering with the work of the network.

Building a Culture of Accountability

Accountability can seem like an elusive thing when working across organizational, sectoral, and cultural boundaries. It can be difficult to ensure that people will do what they say they will do when they say they will do it. Luckily, accountability is a mindset and commitment that can be built. This document outlines some ways to do that.

 

Stage 3. Learning about the Larger System

Shared information, insight, and analysis is key to effective collaboration, but understanding complex systems can be difficult, especially for diverse groups with different ways of thinking and knowing. Here are several useful methods that help diverse groups simultaneously see a system, understand the dynamics within that system, and identify possible intervention points. 

Constellation Mapping Method

Constellation mapping is an incredibly fast way to simultaneously learn about the system you're working in AND generate possible strategies for changing that system. Russ first developed this method in 2006 while working on a stakeholder engagement with a publicly-traded company in the U.S.

This is a terrific method for engaging people in analyzing complex systems in a way that empowers and build energy, which is often not the case with work like that. The added benefit is that everyone's information of the system becomes part of the analysis and helps feed the strategy development, which build engagement too.

One note: This method works best with the hexagon-shaped "VIS-IT" post-it notes from www.thinkingtools.net, and their website has many other methods to support successful collaborations.

Force Field Mapping Method

Based on the work of Kurt Lewin, this is a simple but effective method for quickly identifying the forces for or against a change, and prioritizing actions that will have the greatest impact. This method is especially helpful when the success of your initiative depends on certain people (e.g. doctors or people with diabetes) changing their behaviors.

Key Factors Mapping Method

This is a simple but effective method for quickly identifying the factors that have the most influence on addressing a given challenge. This method is especially helpful when things aren’t moving forward and there seem to be underlying issues that hold things back. The process helps push a group to think harder about what’s really holding back progress.

Value Chain Dynamics Mapping Method

 A method for uncovering disconnects or disincentives for delivering better outcomes across a value chain. This method usually applies when a better product or service needs to be delivered to consumers, citizens, or institutions (e.g. healthier school food). 

7 System Conditions Guiding our Work

The foundation of our work at CoCreative is our belief in the need for Shared Prosperity and Ecological Sustainability. This page summarizes the 7 “system conditions” that we believe must be met in order to achieve sustainable prosperity for all.

Stage 4. Designing Interventions

Collective design of interventions leads to collective ownership of the work. The challenge is to leverage the diverse ideas, perspectives, and interests of your group to identify and develop robust strategies. Doing this in the room, together, in real time is the best way to build ownership and momentum for the tough work ahead.

Four (Better) Brainstorming Techniques 

Most brainstorming sessions use technology that was developed 60 years ago – the "all ideas are good and we need to generate as many ideas as possible" approach. Here are four methods that will usually generate better ideas than the traditional approach.

5 Methods for Moving Fast

Is your collaboration getting stuck in analysis and discussion? Are people getting polarized because people are unable to move beyond their favored positions? Here are 5 ways to get unstuck and move faster in your work together.

10 Ways to Leverage Human Insight in Collaborative Innovation

We heavily employ methods from human-centered design in our collaborative innovation projects. Here are 10 of those methods that you can start using today.

8 Elements of Good Strategy  

What makes good strategy? There are many opinions on this but here's our take. We use this checklist to help organizations assess the strategy that's emerging from our Collaborative Strategy process.

Stage 5. Making Solutions

Getting from analysis and ideas to concrete prototypes and then piloting those solutions in the real world requires commitment, stamina, and just plain grit. But this is also the fun part, where groups truly realize how powerful and effective they are together!

Project Concept Worksheet

A template that we use when network participants have identified potential projects (e.g. possible solutions) and need to develop those ideas into more complete concepts.

12 Lessons from Serial Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are amazing at leveraging limited resources to launch new products and services, and build new businesses--and serial entrepreneurs are the best of all because they've done this multiple times.  Based on our work with both business and social entrepreneurs over the years, we've collected this list of the ways they think and act that have informed our own practice.

Stage 6. Scaling Initiatives

Getting from analysis and ideas to concrete prototypes and then piloting those solutions in the real world requires commitment, stamina, and just plain grit. But this is also the fun part, where groups truly realize how powerful and effective they are together!

Backcasting a Roadmap of Work

Backcasting is a simple but powerful and engaging tool for planning work together with groups. It builds collective ownership and helps everyone see the critical dependencies in the work, so they understand why the work today needs to get done. Here are instructions for how to do a simple backcasting exercise.

Initiative Map

Once you've identified your network's key initiatives and formed teams around them, here's a simple template to track and manage the group's work. Of course, you'll share many more documents and tasks with the group, but this is a simple, useful way to get started in organizing the work.

Looking for something? This page has a small part of our toolbox and we're happy to post other tools on request. Just send us a note if you're looking for something we haven't posted yet.
 

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