The Collaboration Kit: A simulation-based workshop for critical collaboration skills

A2RU created this workshop to help scientists, clinicians, artists, and humanists develop the skills and awareness they need to successfully collaborate. As a result, the workshop benefits faculty and researchers from a wide array of disciplines who work on teams. It provides practical guidance for participants to navigate the disparate languages, approaches, and epistemologies that characterize collaboration across disciplines.

The workshop format is recursive; participants learn *about* interdisciplinary collaboration (instructional) even as immersive activities require them to actively *engage in* interdisciplinary collaboration (experiential). This structure was developed in consultation with experts in organizational change and group facilitation and is strongly influenced by design thinking. Instructional modules are grounded in primary and secondary research, with their content tailored for accessibility. Experiential modules involve a simulation exercise, done in affinity-based teams, that is designed to engage participants in a content-relevant project. Many modules employ artifacts that were specially designed for A2RU’s Collaboration Kit. 

Expected outcome: participants acquire new frameworks, information, and strategies, and have the opportunity to immediately put them into practice in the low-stakes context of the simulation. This interactional experience affords the development of insight into best practices for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Objectives and goals of the workshop:

  • Provide concrete resources for effective interdisciplinary collaboration, including strategies for communication across difference, frameworks for anticipation/preparation, methods for structuring collaboration, and tools for conflict resolution and renegotiation.
  • Provide the opportunity to actively experience interdisciplinary collaboration through a simulation activity. The simulation affords the immediate application of tools and strategies and provides a meaningful context for relevant content.
  • Enable insights from self and others. The workshop includes structured time to reflect on team dynamics and one’s personal participation style, and for knowledge-sharing with peers.
  • Support critical thinking about how workshop elements may or may not be relevant to specific situations by providing “meta” information on the background and process of creating the workshop.

The workshop is three hours long, divided into two sections with a 15-minute break in between.


Gabriel Harp is the Research Director for the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (A2RU), based in the Vice-Provost’s Office for Engaged Learning at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. A graduate of Indiana University’s Department of Biology (B.A., M.A., Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior), he earned his M.F.A. at the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. In the decade between leaving the University of Michigan and returning to his current role, he worked in Bangalore and the San Francisco Bay Area as a faculty member, artist-in-residence, senior consultant, and research director for a variety of organizations focused on emerging technologies, higher education, public engagement, and sustainability. Gabriel’s current practice focuses on using data science tools to make sense of large collections of interviews — together with participatory design techniques — to inform organizational sensemaking, facilitation, and strategic foresight in higher education, workforce development, and climate impacts prevention and preparedness.

Veronica Stanich, Ph.D., is the Research Program Manager at the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (A2RU) and the Managing Editor of A2RU Ground Works, an online peer-reviewed platform for exemplary arts-integrative research. Her previous work performing, producing, notating, teaching, and writing about dance, and her Ph.D. in Dance Studies from the Ohio State University, inform her current roles. At A2RU, she has conducted research into the mechanisms of interdisciplinary collaboration, and has been instrumental in the design of workshops and workshop materials to support such collaboration. Additional research into arts-integrated and interdisciplinary teaching at the University of Michigan has resulted in numerous whitepapers and case-studies.