Posted by: theoriginalmiss | June 13, 2013

Reflections On Collaboration


All images © Paula Broom.  From April Instameet 2013.

“Nexus, Collaboration, Innovation” provided a practical framework from which to explore, in a supportive, non-judgemental and educational context, interdisciplinary collaborations.  Collaborative methodologies, learning styles as well as examples and case studies were introduced at the beginning of the course, providing the basis from which to ‘go forth and collaborate’.

Early on, students were encouraged to reflect upon what collaboration meant to them, and what collaborations they had done.  At that stage, I felt I had very little knowledge about or experience with collaboration.  I remember merely recounting a disappointing experience I’d had with my local council.  However, retrospectively, as the course is drawing to a close, I now have quite a different view of my past collaborations: I have participated in many, and they were, for the most part, positive experiences.  This course has been pivotal in assuring my continued participation in collaborations into the future.  Below is an account of how I got here.

Images of animals taken by me at Secret Creek Sanctuary in 2012, edited 2013. All images © Paula Broom.

In line with the hands-on ethos of Nexus, students were encouraged to initiate their own collaborations, which they would present to the class.  This meant designing and pitching a proposal to both potential collaborators and the class.  I have had along standing desire to publicise and assist in reversing the plight of the world’s vulnerable species. I detail this in my previous post here entitled “Endangered and Threatened Species”.

My Nexus proposal gave me the opportunity to fulfil this desire: I approached a major, internationally recognised institution here in Sydney and proposed a collaboration with their scientists who deal with threatened and endangered native species. My role would be creative iPhoneographer, producing material to post on social media. The anticipated outcome is that by visually highlighting what scientists do on a day-to-day basis with those species, we can draw the public’s attention, not only to their work, but also to the awful extinction spasm that is currently gripping Australia and the world at large today.  This is what I have already learned from this collaboration thus far:

  • Visual proposals have a lot of impact. After visiting the institution’s staff to pitch my proposal, I realised that what got them particularly excited about the project were the photographs. My revised proposal for their Directors was extremely visual.
  • Collaborations can be frustrating, running on another’s timeframes or according to another’s working style or speed.  Extreme patience may be required.  My proposal is still under discussion.
  • I realised how much easier it is to speak to a group about something that you have designed yourself, unlike other experiences presenting on my Masters, whereby through the Peer Lead Learning process, you end up talking on issues about which you have only recent and shallow knowledge.

All images © Paula Broom.  For Heritage presentation.

This last realisation was slightly reconfirmed when we were teamed up with other Nexus class members to present on a pre-determined topic chosen by our lecturer.  I was teamed up with the talented Sarah Parker, an artist and director of an art collective called Reverie Projects that produce exhibitions at the historic house Villa Alba in Melbourne.  Our topic was “Heritage to Modern”.  For details of this, see my previous post “Heritage in Australia”.

This is where I got to learn experientially about collaboration and collaborative tools.  Brainstorming was the first and probably most useful tool we got to employ during our first meeting at the outset.  Sarah and I have extremely different approaches, demonstrated by her endless handwritten notes and high energy, compared to my more technological, yet surprisingly slower approach, relying on my iPhone.

Maybe because of these differences, we didn’t really need to discuss exactly what we would individually be presenting – the shared vision and individual roles in it sort of fell into place.  With my background in environmental management, I was able and willing to explore heritage issues from an institutional, more legislative point of view, whilst Sarah engaged her art knowledge around art and heritage.  Key lessons were:

  • Brainstorming is a useful, initial collaborative tool.
  • Communication is key and communication tools are vital, including meetings in person.
  • Understanding not only your own, but also another’s operating style is an essential part of successful collaborating.
  • You have control only over your own input in collaboration.

All images © Paula Broom.  Photographs of Tempe House.

Inspiration derived from this and the other class collaborations generated yet more collaborations, such as a potential exhibition with Sarah at Tempe House in October and my eerie series of photos taken with my 13 year old daughter.

All images © Paula Broom.  Collaboration with my daughter.

Also in the collaborative spirit, I have written blog pieces and continue to take photographs to forward to the Laneways Project group, see my posts here under “Artworks” entitled “Street Art “and “Laneways Street Art Project 2013”.

Key lessons learned from this:

  • Collaboration can spawn more collaboration.
  • Not only huge projects, but small acts, such as Instameets – a group of people amassing with the shared vision of taking neat photographs and tagging them on social media – can constitute collaboration, hence the tools of collaboration are endless. This realisation has changed my outlook and shed a renewed light on the small, collaborative activities that I undertake regularly.
  • Remote or virtual collaborations are becoming more usual due to technological advancements.

Last 2 photos by Armineh Hovanesian (@armineh29 on Twitter and Instagram) and edited by Paula Broom for AMPt Community collaboration. All images © Paula Broom.

Thanks to our facilitator, Selena Griffiths, from the School of Design Studies for an extremely enjoyable, informative and constructive course.


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