Facilitating collaboration and decision-making: A workshop series for the Rare As One Network annual meeting

In mid-May, CSCCE was honored to host a three-day workshop series for the Rare As One Network’s annual meeting. The meeting’s attendees had a shared interest in developing strategies to support large-scale collaboration and collaborative decision-making, topics that we regularly offer trainings on, and we were delighted to share our frameworks in this highly interactive online workshop setting. 

This blog post offers a summary of the series. If you are interested in learning more about commissioning a similar training for your organization or community, please reach out to training@cscce.org. (Review a full list of workshops in our catalog.)

About Rare As One

The Rare As One Network is a project supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to bring together patient-led organizations focused on finding clinical treatments for rare diseases. 

“As part of the CZI Rare As One Network, patient-led organizations are developing and launching collaborative research networks in partnership with clinicians and scientists. The program provides funding, tools, and capacity-building support and training.”

Meet the grantees

Within this context, each organization is working to build community, bringing together multiple different audience groups with varying interests and expertise. Such large-scale collaborations can be challenging, especially when trying to build consensus around priorities, scope, or goals. 

Our three-part training workshop

Over the course of three, 2-hour sessions on three consecutive days (20-22 May 2024) we offered participants tools and strategies that built into a suite of activities they could bring back to their organizations and implement. 

Workshop 1: Preparing for large-scale collaborations

We began by asking participants what kinds of challenges they had faced in their organizations in terms of collaboration. Debriefing the activity was a generative process, with the participants sharing openly and connecting over common experience. Then, we reviewed some of the common challenges faced more broadly in collaborative projects in STEM. These include confusion around the mission and goals of a project and who is involved, unclear processes or standard workflows that lead to work getting dropped or delayed, or a lack of clarity around expectations around work products (e.g., credit and publication norms). 

With this context in mind, we proceeded to consider a solution for these challenges – developing an intentional onboarding process that includes a team readiness survey. This is an opportunity for everyone involved in the collaboration to reflect on their role in the context of the project, and for leadership to identify early on if there are mismatched expectations or misunderstandings.

Participants were invited to use a bank of questions we’ve developed for team readiness surveys, and begin creating a survey that addressed topics of particular interest to their project. 

Workshop 2: Designing for large-scale collaborations

We began the second session by debriefing the survey design process, with participants answering questions about the areas of focus on their survey and plans for implementation.

Then, we talked about how to make sure that the information you learn in your survey makes an impact on your collaboration. Options include sharing the survey data as part of a project kickoff meeting, developing a collaboration guide that addresses any pain points identified in the survey, and asking your colleagues to contribute to the ongoing maintenance of that guide. 

The rest of the session was dedicated to exploring how to create collaboration guides and some of the information they generally include, as well as ways of actively promoting collaborative behaviors through workshops and team-building sessions. 

Workshop 3: Making collaborative decisions 

In the final workshop, we focused on one of the most common challenges collaborative projects face: making decisions in a collaborative way. 

In a collaborative project or community, it is common to ask for input from across your audiences as you make decisions that will impact them. But the process of getting from “input” to “decision” can be fraught. In the workshop, we introduced the CSCCE Community Participation Model as a lens through which to look at decision making, and discussed specific strategies including consultation, various voting methods, and building consensus. By examining case studies in breakout rooms, participants explored how different strategies might work in different situations. 

We closed the series with a reflection activity designed to prepare participants to take what they’d learned back to their organizations. 

Thank you to CZI and the Rare As One Network

We are grateful to CZI and the Rare As One Network for inviting us to convene these workshops, and to all of the participants who engaged so fully with the materials. We appreciate that each time we run a workshop, we learn so much from the people who show up and take part. All of the participants in this series made it a rich and rewarding experience – both for us as facilitators and for each other as colleagues and collaborators. We look forward to future opportunities to engage with the project!