Introducing the CTA - how did we get to here and what now?

Overlapping circles are cool

CTA History

The idea for a Collaborative Technology Alliance grew out of a global conversation, about the need for increased collaboration between various technology projects, to build a new collaborative commons.
You can read more about the foundations which were built during the initial CTA meeting in 2015 in Edward West's excellent post Doing more together, together, and subsequent discussions on Hylo, and in the Loomio Open App Ecosystem and CTA groups.

The group which gathered at the CTA meeting in 2015, included key contributors from Enspiral, Loomio, CoBudget, Chalkle, Robin Hood Cooperative,, Hylo, Ethereum, Citizen Code,,, KiwiConnect, Lifehack, Planetwork, Impact Hub, Refugio Resource, Pyxis, Triaxiom9, CivicMakers and more.

These groups agreed:

We are united by the vision that people can do more, together, and are stewarding tools, communities, processes, networks and ecosystems to make that vision a reality.

By the end of 2015 the Collaborative Technology Alliance was seeded and it was proposed that:

This group will create (and adopt when already available) standards, schemas, and protocols to enable interoperability amongst collaborative software tools. This group will also promote user-centered design amongst our member tools, and help to generate a common UI/design language for the ecosystem towards this end.

Progress to date...

The progress and sense of shared purpose that evolved from the 2015 meeting seeded the ground with excitement and high hopes for the CTA. Several online conversations evolved of which some of the thoughts on strategy, communities who might use CTA tools and other ideas are still relevant today.

Ideas from 2015 on how the CTA might evolve...
Ideas from 2015 on how the CTA might evolve...


But, despite these valiant intentions, discussions dwindled and no clear structure for coordinating work on the CTA organisation itself, or the standards, schemas and protocols ever really materialised and the focus of the various groups that came together naturally reverted back onto their own projects. There are, undoubtedly, numerous reasons for this not least of all that collaboration is hard. Very hard. And particularly hard between a group of groups who all have other daily duties and different missions. We lack good examples of what collaboration at scale looks like, and how it should work.

Collaboration is hard. Very hard.

Secondly, the task the CTA has set itself is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of the day. How, exactly do we design and build a new collaborative commons? Several groups are working on this on their own - but the whole point of the CTA is to standardise this work and harness the network effect. As a community of developers and users we're missing out on the very thing which make us powerful: the effect that every new user adds an increasing amount of connections and value to the overall network.

How, exactly do we design and build a new collaborative commons?

Lastly, for now (we will be digging into 'lessons learned' and other 'failures' in more detail in further blogs - as there is lots of material to learn from!) there comes the question of group dynamics, shared interests and strategy itself. Whilst practically everyone who joined the CTA discussions on Hylo and Loomio had very, very similar visions there are, naturally, differing opinions on 'how' things should be done. One of the first issues to arise in collaborative groups nearly always concerns discussions of 'governance' (used here to mean the way a group manages itself) which often demotivates members of the group who's primary interest is in cracking on with building new technology. We are still learning how to collaborate, as individuals, groups and wider global communities - and for a collaborative commons (and the CTA) to work we need to learn fast.

For a collaborative commons to work we need to learn how to collaborate at scale.

None of these problems are unsolvable. But it is going to take real effort to find ways through the issues and the inevitable problems and blockages which will confront a group with such lofty intentions. And that's why the CTA exists.

Looking forward...

This site has been built with significant care and attention to draw out the most valuable elements from the CTA's history and to build on them by 'wrapping up' the existing work to present a clear, 'customer facing', home for the CTA. None of the words on the main CTA pages are new, or have been written by any one individual; they are a truly collaborative effort which has been drawn together and improved upon by the CTA's original participants.

At it stands, this site stops short of addressing 'how', suggesting a 'governance' structure or defining any 'standards' or 'protocols' because that work has yet to be done, and can only be done by a wider collaborative collective.

The hope is that, now the CTA has a clear home, as a first step, CTA stakeholders will pledge their commitment to collaboration in public and encourage others to do the same. And that this simple act, without an immediate commitment to any particular technology or governance structure, will encourage a community of shared interest to evolve with the collective intelligence to manage itself effectively and build a new collaborative commons.

Where the CTA goes from here is up to you. Take the pledge now and have your say.