Participatory methods

Collaborative Business Model


Collaborative Business Model (CBM) is an open innovation design, developed by academic sector with the goal to create a collaborative network of diverse stakeholders that would serve as a source of innovation to the specific industry related issue. Therefore, the focus of the model is to maximize potentials and capacities of the innovation ecosystem, by linking diverse stakeholders in the process of idea creation and decision-making. The network serves as a channel to link students and education sector with industry, public sector and civil society. In mutual collaboration, stakeholder network develops a business model, mutually adding value of the each party involved to the model. The core aim of the traditional innovation models relies on the innovation network within a company, which is responsible for creating a structure that promotes innovation, or on the cooperation with another company. This model goes beyond traditional features and focuses on collaboration with external networks as the innovation resource. In this regard, it transforms the traditional structure of bottom-up approach in decision making, towards bottom-up governance, allowing innovative ideas not only be created - but to grow and thrive.  The model uncovers three layers of collaboration, each with the purpose to decrease the gap between groups involved and provide as an open environment that foster high quality problem solving and idea creation. Brought together, stakeholders deliver an innovative business model based on diversity and mutual collaboration of all the users affected with the particular industry sector[1]. The CBM has a wide range application, from startups to public and private companies. Collaborative business model varies in number of participants, ranging from 50 to 500 people involved, and lasts between three to sixteen months in delivering a novel output.

Specific features of the Collaborative Business Model:

  • Encourages input from a wide range of participants, using Quadruple Helix networks as a channel for the input
  • Develops feasible business models and potential ideas with practical steps for the successful development of projects based on the input of the network of collaborators which also includes citizens in decision making
  • Increases mutual understanding among parties involved and solves deadlocks between them during the implementation phase, but also ensures environment for sustainability of results
  • Adds value to the final product or service taking into account specificities of all the parties involved.

Collaborative Business Model is applicable when:

  • The need for expansion of innovation ecosystem is required or desirable
  • Specific local or regional economic and developmental challenges call for collaborative efforts, and are complex in nature
  • The dominant trends may not be convenient for any stakeholder included in collaborative network and must be studied from different perspectives
  • Many diverse groups are significantly affected by the industrial business models and decision-making
  • When civil society demonstrate the interest for an increased formal involvement
  • There is a need to generate input, share knowledge, and encourage innovative thinking around real life issues that calls for engaging external audiences
  • Exploring in-depth key strategic challenges and opportunities that could improve and deepen the relationship and mutual ownership of outcomes within the involved groups.

The model develops during the three phases:

Pre-Collaborative Business Model phase – focuses on developing and working with a joint steering group that decides on the primary focus of the CBM platform and manages the logistics during the following phases. Joint steering group consists of the academy, industry and civil society representatives, who decides on the specific industry related business model in focus and on the main features of the innovation platform – of the Collaborative Business Model. During this phase, the facilitator identifies a preliminary set of issues that will be addressed during the platform implementation, analyze requirements, decide on community building tools and techniques employed, as well as on end-user inclusive events and undertakes a feedback analysis. The phase lasts up to three months and involves up to 20 representatives of groups involved.

Collaborative Business Model implementation phase – is the main phase of the process at which all the parties are taking actions according to the previously set plan. It consists of the workshops, events and meetings at which stakeholders are collaborating on the design of the business model. The phase evolves throughout the five sub-steps. The main goal is to assess the needs of participants, to interview the stakeholder groups, provide recommendations, identify specific directions of collaboration and model design as well as to generate implementation strategies. Later on, stakeholders involved are collaborating on the implementation of the identified steps and in the final stage develop an integrated collaborative business model.

Post-Collaborative Business Model phase – dissemination and sustainability - documents all the experiences, strengths and weaknesses of the platform, as well challenges, opportunities and provides a transnational perspective of the delivered solutions. It also includes preparation of materials, presentations and other forms of dissemination activities that will be open to public and further encourage citizen participation.


It is highly recommended to apply the model when the complexity of the problem in case manifests a high probability of significant change, as well as when it reflects an upcoming trends that are long term in nature. Creating a collaborative network of academy sector, industry representatives, citizens and local authorities in the initial stage of an upcoming trend is of vital importance to all stakeholders (e.g. self-driving cars infrastructure – acceptance rate, projections, inclusion of citizens, introduction of novel policies, etc.). This decreases the level of uncertainty in major areas both on micro and macro levels.  
[1] Links below present examples of the concrete stages of the model, at the implementation phase. These events are organized under the acronym the “Long Night of Participation”, as well as the “Projekmarktplatz”, both held at the University of Applied Sciences Vorarlberg area.


Participants of the Collaborative Business Model are academic staff and students, industry partners as well as local authorities and civil society.

University staff – are managing the process. Facilitator can be a one person or a team that manages the collaborative environment, with the aim to keep an active participative network among involved stakeholders during the CBM lifespan.
The tasks of facilitator include planning, steering the processes, managing the dialogue, chairing the events and meetings, assisting the students and civil society in bridging the gap between them and the industry sector, monitors and evaluates the results of the CBM, oversees the entire process, prints and disseminate the entire process, serve as a contact person for the post-CBM phase. 

Students – university staff lead students through the process of creation of a business model, or idea development, during the regular course of the specific subject. Students are potential founders of startups, and the group of students with the most innovative and prospect business idea are included in the future design of the model developed in close cooperation with the industry and university staff, as well as with citizens as part of the collaborative network. 

Industry representatives – take part in the collaborative business model design as experts and the group who manages and evaluate student design. Industry representatives are involved in the CBM implementation phase considering the basic model and collaborating with participating groups in delivering innovative collaborative business model design with the long-term perspective. They are members of the steering committee that decides on the planning process and the actions taken during the process of implementation.

Civil Society – Ideally, citizens that participate in the process of collaborative business modelling are real representatives of the population at large. The citizen group should represent a broad community as well as specific communal interests related to the model in case. Ideally, civil society group should ensure diversity of opinions and ideologies and should include participants actively interested in the specific industry related issues.

Local authorities – representatives of local authorities take part in particular phases of the CBM, providing a feedback on feasibility of solutions in regard to the existing policies as well as collects recommendations and insights on advancements in policy and strategy requirements.


When involving citizens in the collaborative design, facilitator should include various representatives of the civil society, and also keep focus on those actively interested in the issues in the case model. E.g. members of the business community, citizen associations, youth, senior citizens - persons from adjoining cities or regions, etc. 
Reaching at least one representative of local authorities, that will take part at the all stakeholder event, is a crucial part of the co-design, as the model provides basis for the future modelling of policies that will provide mode advanced environment to the specific industry sector or civic inclusion. 


Realistic estimates of time and costs are especially difficult in the early stages of the CBM. The estimates depends on the expectations of the complexity and longevity of the business model. However, these include provision for assembling the panel and staff, meetings costs, events and materials used, travel and accommodation, communication, reporting and documentation as well as dissemination of the results.


Inevitable uncertainties in budgeting arise when estimating the number of meetings, events or workshops and the number of days on each such occasion.



Accelerator of the collaborative co-creation process creates the setting, facilitate participation and the process, leads and intervene during all the phases of the Collaborative Business Model, manages conflicts and imbalances between diverse groups, as well as builds the consensus that provides foundation for the integrative decision-making. Facilitator is the main mediator between involved groups, and provides models and techniques for the balanced involvement of stakeholders.

Representing members are one or two of the research or teaching staff employed by the academy institution, experienced in participatory and consensus based processes. Their involvement should be neutral and active during the all phases of the model employment. At specific and identified phases of the CBM, together with chosen industry representatives, facilitator organize a joint steering group that is responsible for the design of the final integrated business model.


The introduced model is a platform developed by the university staff and provides a tool for linking students, industry and citizens in creating innovative solutions to the real life problems in the field of the specific industry related topic.


The duration of the CBM depends on the various factors, such as time availability of the industry and academy staff, managing capabilities of staff involved, finances disposable, local environment, availability of the tools to meet the goal, characteristics of the political system if is managed in, and of various non mentioned dimensions. In this regard, the model can take up to sixteen months of execution. The shortest lifespan of the model is accounted for about six months.

As mentioned before, the CBM consists of the three main phases, of which the second one bears the greatest complexity. These are:

The pre-Collaborative Business Model phase concerns the preparation steps in building up the bases of the model and lasts optimally up to three months

The second phase is the implementation phase of the Collaborative Business Model, and its duration can take up to nine months.        

The post-Collaborative Business Model phase – presentation of the CBM to the community and further research, promotional and dissemination activities. The phase lasts up to four months.


The number of cycles repeated during the second phase implementation depends on the financial factors, but more importantly on the complexity of the subject in focus. Although the first phase of the model lasts considerably lesser amount of time than the second one, the second phase implementation depends on the quality level of the action plan provided in the first phase of the Collaborative Business Model.


University and industry representatives will provide basic documentation on the strategic orientation and best practices of the institutions they represent. Also, universities and industry should emphasize the interests to each party involved and ensure the timely conduct of the process, research and the development of the integrated CBM. In this regard, facilitator should develop an action plan, the document that provides clear directions and planned steps within each phase of the model.
In the first stage, facilitator meets students and industry partners in separate sessions and writes a short report on each session, providing a framework for future sessions and events, which is compared with initial action plan, and adapts it according to fixed and newly stated requirements. For each session, facilitator prepares the attendance and evaluation list.
On the other hand, supporting and informative materials serve to deepen the interest and the knowledge of citizens so their further co-designing participation in the CBM development could have extended relevance. The third supporting document concerns the collected critical viewpoints and suggestions of the civil society to the model in case. 

This process evolves throughout the other phases of the CBM.  At the end of the process, facilitator develops a final report, promotional materials as well as publications that supports the results of the CBM.


Facilitator is the mediator between groups involved. Managing person or a team from the academic institution have direct contacts with students.
Similar applies on the side of the communication with industry and local authorities’ representatives, except that the contact between them flows mostly via the telephone or e-mail modes of conversation.
When involving the civil society, the process implies introduction of additional channels – such as social media, promotional materials, and advertisements. However, the process is mainly driven through the digital media tools in this regard.


University provides the environment for students and the civil society to take an active part in participating in the development of the business model by the industry partner.

The process employed to achieve equal participation and roles of the involved participant covers the following modes of actions. In the initial phase of planning activities, facilitator organizes meetings and co-design activities between stakeholders. Further, facilitator provides a content analysis that identifies timing, content and type of interaction among the actors of the model that serves as a model for platform improvements.



As mentioned before, the CBM consists of the three main phases, of which the second one bears the greatest complexity. The pre-CBM phase is the preparation phase of the collaborative model and lasts optimally up to three months. The second phase - the CBM implementation phase – has the longest duration relative to the complexity of managing the collaboration networks taking part in the design of the CBM. At formal events, stakeholder groups meet and co-design the model after thorough preparations that precedes these events. Depending on meeting the needs of all the stakeholders involved, as well as the intricacy of the model in case, this phase may last three or up to nine months. In later case, the cycle of the second stage is repeated until the satisfactory solution is reached and the CBM designed. The stage concerns the following sub-stages:

  1. Informative student – university meetings – this stage is part of the first CBM phase and continues to the end of the first sub-stage of the CBM implementation phase.
  2. Civil society informative event – Citizens are involved in the initial phase of the CBM implementation phase at which their level of knowledge on the specific topic is in the focus. Additionally, civil society takes part in the final phase where they actively participate in the collective decision-making process on the business model development as fully informed and relevant actors.


    To apply gamification techniques has proven to increase the level of participant attention and involvement within the event.
  3. First industry-student meeting - industry representatives welcome students and academy staff at their facilities, where students present their business model design and get further practical information on the area of study. During presentation and brainstorming session, together with the joint committee create a first draft on the collaborative business model – the pre-platform CBM test case, that will further be presented to publics giving them the opportunity to enrich the content with citizen suggestions, ideas, feedback, criticism and desirable directions for further advancements. The meeting lasts about three hours. 
  1. All stakeholders meeting – at the event/workshop, all the stakeholders are actively involved in the communication process, students first present their models, which are in subsequent steps discussed by citizens, industry and university representatives on further improvements. The facilitator establishes the date of the event as well as the location, prepares a schedule, a list of participants, arranges accommodation for the out-of-town participants, provides materials and supplies as well as promote the event. 
  2. Second industry-student meeting – I developing an integrated Collaborative Business Model – the final phase is meant to polish the collaborative business model into an integrated whole that present solutions developed by all stakeholders. Collaborative network of students, academy and industry representatives meet again to revise the business model, incorporating the input received from the previous session and collaboration with citizens. The facilitator and the steering committee finalize their ideas and polish the business model incorporating the data collected in the previous events and meetings.

The post-Collaborative Business Model phase includes presentation of the CBM to the community and dissemination activities. At this phase, the facilitator prepares documentation and presentation of the CBM output, in subsequent steps presents the model to the community and take steps for further promotion and dissemination.


Ideally, the facilitator provides the document and scientific publications which challenges further benchmarking and improvements to the CBM.


Results are documented in the each phase of the model. In the final stage, these results present a written integrated version of the final model. The activities and detailed formal framework of the CBM is the part of the report that serves as a case model for other regional and international collaborations between industry and the academic sector with the inclusion of end users in the model creation. The report considers transnational dimensions of the CBM contribution as well, and serves as a tool for social inclusion in business modelling, and for further improvements in collaborative participation.
Facilitator disseminates results via diverse events, conferences, regional and international networking sessions. Also, promotional activities are spread over digital channels.


The final presentation should be advertised and take place in an easy to access place to which all the stakeholders could easily reach. A verbal presentation with slides is an acceptable format, but ideally, facilitator should implement the diverse techniques of storytelling and gamification techniques so the community interest to the CBM is reached to the maximum.


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SHOWCASE Collaborative Business Model

Collaborative Business Model Design for E-Mobility