Collaboratory Interim Report: Insights from a Community of Practice

The New School Collaboratory is a two-year research and design initiative launched formally in June 2013 with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. It aims to enhance the University’s efforts to foster meaningful, communities and external partners in New York City. Through cross-cutting analysis of a set of partnership projects, the Collaboratory seeks to identify the challenges of and best practices for collaboration from the perspectives of all stakeholders, including communities, institutional partners, students, and faculty.

Social engagement is an essential part of the University’s progressive legacy and educational vision. Given the complexity of today’s world, socially engaged education, with its focus on critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and collaboration is essential to prepare students for the 21st century. Students must be equipped to work across boundaries (sectors, cultures, disciplines, etc.) to solve problems in innovative ways and to act as responsible and active citizens. To achieve this, it is imperative to create learning environments that are interdisciplinary and engaged with real-world problems and partners. In addition to its educational value, The New School’s public engagement contributes to new knowledge and communities.

The projects associated with the Collaboratory provide a unique opportunity to learn about how The New School collaborates at a process-based level. The interdisciplinary teams of designers, artists, curators, array of students, community groups, citizens and other organizations constitute a fairly complex assemblage of skills, perspectives, interests, histories, goals, and desires. To track how these various actors work together, how they share knowledge and skill sets, and how they present differing approaches to community engagement and social innovation is an invaluable opportunity to study emergent forms of collaboration as they unfold. The complex problems of today require networked, interdisciplinary forms of knowledge to be to being an active player in promoting transformative change in New York City and beyond, it is important to gain a more nuanced understanding of how such complex endeavors work.

Download the full report here.

This interim report is the outcome of qualitative research conducted by Collaboratory researchers between January and July 2014 across six project partnerships (the Community of Practice). The report provides an analysis of the challenges and serve as a jumping off point for the next phase of the Collaboratory.