It was almost twelve months ago that we were invited to form a team to create an online resource for communities, one they could access, anywhere, anytime, regardless of budget. The task sounded simple enough – create free and accessible resources for change makers collaborating to address complex social issues. And consider how to incorporate things like designing for collaboration, leadership practice, community empowerment, measurement and learning. This all sounded extremely sensible and something that would be valuable for change makers from all walks of life.
So, we jumped at the chance. However, it didn’t take long for us to realise the enormity of the task we had taken on. How could we reconcile such a diversity of paradigms, processes and practices? How could we create a roadmap that made it easy for users to navigate? What should we include and, more importantly, what could we leave out?
This is where we put our feet to the fire. We had pooled an encyclopaedic quantity of resources, all of which could be justifiably crammed in to a platform. And we had matrixes and tables and trouble shooting sessions to figure out how we would compile and align all this wonderful information. We also had wonderful partners in Clear Horizon and TACSI, who were on standby to provide their expertise and content wherever we needed it.
In the end, after much deliberation, we realised we had to go back to first principles. We didn’t want to replicate the many existing websites that compile collaboration resources in bulk for users. What we felt would be unique and new was a ‘Lonely Planet’ guide on how to navigate all this content – the highlights worth visiting and the places worth skipping. So, after some philosophical debate, we made a radical decision. We took to heart the quote “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. Firstly, we decided to recut the 9-part collaborative change cycle developed by Collaboration for Impact in to 5 phases. We then created five ‘lens’ to sit under each phase instead of the original four (now leadership, collaboration, community, measurement and innovation). We removed 80% of the content we’d amassed and put our effort in to stripping back each of the phases to their very essence, with a focus on what we felt were the most important practices and mindsets for each component. We simplified the language, opting for general terms like ‘community’ to indicate collectives of change makers, and ‘collaboration’ instead of specific terms like ‘collective impact’. And we largely went with resources and tools that already existed elsewhere in the world. We decided that our job was to flag when and where to use them and to provide an effective means of filtering the resources by phase and topic.
With a flurry of final edits, we sent a weblink to 70 people to review the very first version of Platform C for us and tell us what worked and where we’d gone wrong. And we braced ourselves for a backlash on how we’d overstepped the mark and mashed up different disciplines. But to our delight (and relief!), the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People enjoyed the simplicity of the site, and most requests were for minor additions and more finesse. Mission accepted. So we word-smithed and polished but retained the original structure of five phases with five lens.
This is Platform C as you now see it. It’s deceptively simple but contains a lot more than meets the eye. It is not an encyclopedia or a blueprint but rather an organising framework for a wealth of knowledge. By necessity we needed signposts, but they are a best guess based on expert input and the lived experience of practitioners. The five phases are meant to reflect a common change journey. No phase is better or worse than another. And, more often than not, initiatives will move back and forth between the different phases. It is why we chose an infinity loop as the logo. The five lenses still have some awkward marriages of content, but they remain robust and based on best practice. And it’s why we chose the name, Platform C. What does the C stand for? Well, it’s up to you. To us, it means complexity, collaboration, change and also the art of curation.
Platform C is not finished. It’s a work in progress and one that will keep evolving over time. We’ve got lots of ideas for how to grow it. And lots of hopes for it too. We want to keep developing the content, especially the tools and resources. We want to add more Australian case studies. We want it to become a place where the ‘best of’ continually accumulates and grows. We want it to accelerate learning around the emerging practice of collaboration on complex social change. And above all, we hope we have created something special that adds value to the field and helps change-makers succeed.
Did we get the balance right between fidelity to the theory and usability for the practitioner? Are there enough breadcrumbs across the site to find your way? We hope so but we aren’t sure. This is why we are handing it over to you. In the spirit of testing and learning, we are putting Platform C out in to the world because we want to hear your views. Any platform is only as good as the people that use and contribute to it. We’d like Platform C to become a valuable asset for your work, but we can’t do that without your input. So please visit and stay a while. And let us know what you think.