Together Institute
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Together Institute

How do we collaborate across different networks and organizations in times of crisis? Lessons learned from the Support Ukraine SuperHive experiment

Photo by Meggyn Pomerleau

How we designed it

  • We needed a strong, trusted partner like MitOst that would be the face of the initiative and bring other people and organizations on board. MitOst is perfect, because they have been working with social change-makers in Ukraine and bordering countries for decades. They are a natural connector and know many people in this space.
  • To allow for more efficient match-making we needed the help of technology. Because this was supposed to encourage cross-network collaboration around Ukraine we couldn’t rely on any existing group’s social network. It had to be a new tool, but we were also aware how challenging it is to get people to adapt a new technology. We intentionally chose an email-based tool, SuperHive, because with email, people don’t have to install anything, they don’t have to create a new behavior to regularly check a new network. We also wanted a solution that wouldn’t bombard people with constant messages, but allow for messages to be sent out as digests.
  • We were intentional in how open we “branded” the initiative. Even though we had a strong partner with Mitost, the initiative was named after its purpose (Support Ukraine SuperHive), not after MitOst or any other participating organization. As a result there was no dominating host. We were worried about organizational ego and hoped that this purpose-driven, non-specific branding would encourage people to contribute across their specific organizational identities.

What actually happened?

Screenshot from SuperHive backend
  • We had 237 people sign up from a wide variety of backgrounds and representing many organizations involved with Ukraine support. Out of those 18% of people actively participated at some point.
  • We sent out 20 SuperHive newsletters.
  • People shared 84 posts (requests for help, offer of help, share of information, and responses to all of those)
  • 76% of all posts received a reaction (and the posts who didn’t receive a reaction were mostly sharing information, without a call to action).
  • On average each post got 1.4 responses

Key learnings

1 — We still need a shared identity, otherwise it feels unsafe to collaborate.

2 — But how do you create a shared context when you are working across an emerging set of organizations / networks?

3 — We need critical mass.

4 — Learnings on technology.

  • An email-based technology served us well and SuperHive is a great tool.
  • We started with a too intense rhythm of once every work day. We should have started with once or twice a week and then increased once we had more critical mass of people.
  • Some people advocated for more fast-paced channels like Telegram.

5 — Hosting cross-collaborations needs resources

A parting thought: Laying now the groundwork for future cross-collaborations?

THANK YOU

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Fabian Pfortmüller

Grüezi, Swiss community weaver in Amsterdam, co-founder Together Institute, co-author Community Canvas, fabian@together-institute.org | together-institute.org