I love social media and online collaborative tools. I truly see the potential in it. The thing is, though I see the potential, I don’t think it’s being leveraged not nearly as much as it can be. And why? Perhaps because it’s relatively new and we are still experimenting with it.

Interestingly enough, I came across the following report from the workshops on Building Effective Virtual Organizations: Beyond Being There: A Blueprint for Advancing the Design, Development, and Evaluation of Virtual Organizations [PDF 3.3 MB]. The researchers identified many of the components, characteristics, practices, and transformative impact of effective Virtual Organizations as well as topics for future research that will inform the ongoing design, development, and analysis. So what is a Virtual Organization, or VO? According to the researchers:

A virtual organization (VO) is a group of individuals whose members and resources may be dispersed geographically and institutionally, yet who function as a coherent unit through the use ofcyberinfrastructure (CI).

I their report, the researchers discuss a “new technology continuum” they have observed in which, at one end, there is a grid to coordinate resource-sharing and problem-solving whereas on the other, there is a much more informal emerging set of technologies that are highly influenced by the gamut of popular social media tools such as Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Second Life, and so on which have changed how individuals congregate, collaborate, and communicate. The thing is, that at this end of the spectrum:

VOs may be more like “containers” rather than “vehicles” of collaboration in that they are not necessarily driven by common goals or comparable inputs. Nevertheless, VOs of this type may accumulate the results of many seemingly uncoordinated individual actions, creating a whole that becomes an integrated collection.

So how do we turn VOs into “vehicles” of collaboration? Part of it is harnessing and leveraging the technology and aligning it with processes, procedures and needs. But what else?

I’m quite interested in VOs, as I work in one. I’d say we’re leveraging quite a bit, but every day we face new hurdles and have to come up with solutions. Sometimes however, I feel we are so much in the trenches we need to take a step back and assess. If we were to building a model for VOs, what would need to be addressed?