International Collaborative Online Networks

Lessons Identified from the Public, Private, and Nonprofit Sectors

From transnational terrorism to avian flu, the contemporary challenges faced by the global community are growing increasingly complex and difficult to manage. This trend has been driven by several factors, with globalization and the proliferation of technology and information playing important roles. By leveraging these twin phenomena, actors from different sectors—public, private, and nonprofit—can more easily collaborate during complex emergencies that transcend national, bureaucratic, cultural, and vocational boundaries.

As two organizations active in promoting international outreach for problem solving, CSIS and the CIA’s Global Futures Partnership (GFP) convened a workshop including leaders from nongovernmental organizations, international organizations, private companies, and governments. Representatives from each sector shared lessons learned from their respective outreach efforts. The workshop, held March 28, 2008, focused specifically on the use of international collaborative online networks (ICONs) as affordable and viable tools for connecting organizations across sectors and borders. This report is based primarily on the insights captured during this workshop and the discussions it generated. Important conclusions include: a large group of digitally connected individuals will usually be smarter than a small group of individuals collected in one place; unofficial online environments such as wikis tend to be faster at uploading new information than official Web sites; and blogs and online discussion groups are likely to spot new trends before the mainstream literature does.

Guy Ben-Ari, David Gordon

Thomas M. Sanderson