Collaboration sounds simple enough, right? I've been involved and engaged on many local, regional and state government projects, programs and initiatives and one thing that consistently seems to appear in discussions among those involved in any type of collaborative effort is how hard it is to discover, share and build-on the past efforts of others without reinventing the wheel every time someone needs to process, use or expand on some existing set of data or to utilize processes that have been developed, refined and published in some sort of publicly accessible format somewhere else.

I often found myself struggling to wade through complicated email threads or trying to read through accumulated, multiple revisions of paper documents scattered between authors and editors, and I sensed that there just had to be a better way to approach the problem. Certainly there's lots of technology out there that lends itself to organizing things in well crafted databases and that makes moving and sharing documents across the web faster and easier than ever, but too many people still seem to rely on custom, one-off spreadsheets and email as their preferred mode of distribution.

I've had the opportunity to frequently work with some of the newer so-called no/code, low/code software tools out there and have become more and more convinced that it's time to put some of these same tools to work in the government and community sphere that I'm talking about - where committees of people need to share and review data in a more usable, interactive and collaborative fashion. So I decided to try and do something about it.

My first stab at this is something I'm calling My Community Power Network. Basically a way to network communities together in a way that gives them more power to collaborate. This all started with my own involvement on a local energy committee that needed a way to tabulate some historical energy consumption figures, and then needed to present it in a way that makes it accessible and easily shared with others.

I took some of the data needed by the committee, threw it into an Airtable database and shared some views of the data in various formats. That's all well and good for a read-only view of data sets, but then you have to still invite people one at a time to look at it, and if they need to actually work with the data, a paid subscription plan would need to get triggered and paid for. So the next step turned into using the Stacker web portal software platform in order to host the same data in a web browser accessible format making it more easily & freely accessible (free assuming of course someone is picking up the fee for hosting the portal site). That's where Buy Me A Coffee comes in - as a way to ask people to willingly kick in and contribute to subsidizing some of the software support costs needed to make the project freely accessible to all potential collaborators.

I've been satisfied with the results so far and am now expanding the effort to include any local community or regional group in New Hampshire. The model can scale and be expanded to include other states if necessary. If it works here in NH, I will expand on the core concept to help make it work anywhere, but in order to do that I need some more eyes on the prize, and contributions to keep the project going.

Take a look here and let me know what you think after buying me a coffee!