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Collaboration, Part 2

By: Donna Heiland, Vice President and Special Assistant to the President, Emerson College

In my last post, I wrote that collaboration was a watchword of AAC&U's 2014 Annual Meeting, and it was. I wrote about institutional collaboration: the challenging, innovative, energizing work of institutional consortia like the New American Colleges and Universities and Great Lakes College Association that lets colleges work together in ways that benefit their faculty, their students, and their bottom line—though not always all at once!

But that was only half the story. Another thread of conversation running through this meeting was about civic engagement, and what is the work of civic engagement if not the work of collaboration? Between colleges and their community partners above all, but also in

It was the presentation on Civic Seed that reminded me of this obvious fact. Civic Seed is a game that educates students for civic engagement through four levels of play that become more progressively sophisticated. It ask them to think and write about key concepts (by the end of the game students have written 10-15 pages), to work with others to solve a community problem, and to reflect on what they're doing. The game is fun, a touch ironic, and—as one audience member pointed out—promises to engage students in what Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi has described as a state of "flow," an intensely concentrated and often intensely creative state that—I have argued elsewhere—can perhaps even foster the likelihood of breakthrough learning moments.

As I've thought about the many communities that come together to do the work of civic engagement, both in the US and outside it, I've not focused on the great potential of virtual communities, what they make possible, and how they interact with the physical communities we inhabit. It's time to do that. If you have resources to suggest, please send them along to