Clay Shirky @ the World Bank

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Internet guru Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, was at the World Bank last week to share his take on collaboration and new technologies. His main piece of advice for the Bank: "when someone knocks at your door with the next great big collaboration idea that will cost a million dollars, ask them to go outside for a walk and come back until the price tag is closer to 100,000 USD". New technologies have dramatically reduced the cost of failure: trying a new approach is now cheaper than convening a stakeholder meeting to discuss whether a proposed solution might work or not. This week, Gartner actually suggested that 5,000 USD is a realistic estimate for the cost of a collaboration trial.

And, of course, it is not only that the cost of failure has gone down: entry costs have plummeted, too. In the web 2.0 world, one can feed off existing infrastructures to get people to collaborate or campaign for a cause. No need, for example, to create a social networking site of your own -- you can just use Facebook. And once you succeed in getting people together, the cost of empowering them with information and coordinating their efforts are also minimal: as Shirky put it, social networks are "transaction costs lowering machines".

In the Development 2.0 world, there are fewer and fewer justifications for the "not invented here" syndrome and massive budgets spent to develop proprietory IT solutions.  The challenge to adopt a try and test it approach that is open to failure and appropriation of solutions developed by others is not a technological one: it's first and foremost an issue of organisational culture.

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