Over the last few years the concept of collaboration has been discussed extensively in the construction industry, encouraged by the wider adoption of BIM, which has enabled greater stakeholder input. Recently I attended the Smart City Expo - World Congress in Barcelona, where we began to explore ideas that push collaboration to a whole new level.

So what can we expect from what I have termed collaboration 2.0?

Forget traditional project teams. Collaboration 2.0 will see projects undertaken by consortia that bring together main contractors (including competitors), consultants (built environment, FM, business, technology and communications), financiers, social groups, product suppliers, SMEs and academia. Combining this mix of people and organisations will provide clients with a unique vehicle, which will enable them to take a truly holistic view, to address challenges, foster innovation and achieve the best results.

Get ready for applications that match people based on their skills with the organisations that require them. Governments, developers, etc. will recognize that the right person for the job may not be an employee – or even based in the same country. In response, apps will help them to connect with these individuals at the click of a button, which Beth Simone Noveck at New York University's Governance Lab describes as being like ‘Tinder for Government’.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Global Citizen database is one of the first platforms to use technology to leverage human expertise by connecting those who want to end global poverty, but I am sure there will be many more to come. In theory, collaboration 2.0 will allow people to be based at home but working for multiple employers on projects in New York, Singapore and Tel Aviv, creating a truly global workforce and changing the way we work forever.

The end user will take a much bigger role in the development of solutions. Known as ‘co-creation’, this approach is being used by cities to engage in meaningful conversations with citizens – allowing them to have a greater say in what priorities should be and how issues should be addressed. In Medellin, Colombia, mimedellin.org enables citizens to share ideas to tackle challenges such as how to encourage urban regeneration and improve residents’ health. Still in its infancy, co-creation relies on capturing the ‘wisdom of the crowd’, but there do need to be checks in place to ensure that ideas that don't make economic or social sense are not pushed through simply because of their popularity. In addition, how we can capture the views of communities that lack access to the internet needs consideration.

Innovation Labs are heading to a town or city near you. Labs such as those in Osaka, Madrid, Copenhagen and the Future Cities Catapult in London, are bringing together the community and the public and private sectors to share data and foster innovation. Their goal is to improve city liveability and help everyone to do things in a better way. Innovation labs will act as test beds for new products and solutions, proving business cases and providing mentorship for entrepreneurs. Some of the solutions that are being developed are city specific; others can be replicated elsewhere. The ability to replicate schemes is crucial in collaboration 2.0, where participants are looking to share best practice with others to generate economies of scale and prevent reinvention. In the Madrid Lab, of the six pilots that have been deployed, 40% have the ability to be replicated on an international scale.

So, when can we expect to see collaboration 2.0 in our daily lives? All of the components of collaboration 2.0 already exist in some form or other but vary in their levels of maturity. Some need a bit more work to ensure they deliver outcomes that are viable and sustainable, others (such as the Innovation Labs) are beginning to deliver results but have still to achieve their full potential.

In London, the Old Oak/Park Royal Development Corporation is working with a consortium (similar to the one described) to help develop a smart strategy for the redevelopment of the site – but it is a long way from becoming the norm for development. However, where technology is involved, what can appear as something quite innocuous one day can turn into a global phenomenon overnight – so watch this space.

About the author

Stephanie Whittaker

Senior Marketing Communications Manager for BAM Design

Stephanie Whittaker is the senior marketing communications manager for BAM Design. She is also the leader of ENCORD’s Foresighting work group which aims to provide construction industry leaders with the insight and knowledge they need to develop business strategies for the medium to long term.  

Stephanie has spent more than 15 years in the construction industry, working for Arup, Capita Symonds and Halcrow before joining BAM in 2013. During this time she has worked on a variety of projects with a particular focus on creating resilient communities, high performing buildings, sustainable corporate strategies, building information modelling and energy.    

Most recently she has developed an interest in smart cities and how this approach can be used to have a positive impact on the wider city agenda and residents’ lives.

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