Open collaboration is "any system of innovation or production that relies on goal-oriented yet loosely coordinated participants who interact to create a product (or service) of economic value, which they make available to contributors and noncontributors alike." It is prominently observed in open source software, but can also be found in many other instances, such as in Internet forums, mailing lists and online communities. Open collaboration is also thought to be the operating principle underlining a gamut of diverse ventures, including bitcoin, TEDx, and Wikipedia.
Open collaboration is the principle underlying peer production, mass collaboration, and wikinomics. It was observed initially in open source software, but can also be found in many other instances, such as in Internet forums, mailing lists, Internet communities, and many instances of open content, such as creative commons. It also explains some instances of crowdsourcing, collaborative consumption, and open innovation.
Riehle et al. define open collaboration as collaboration based on three principles of egalitarianism, meritocracy, and self-organization. Levine and Prietula define open collaboration as "any system of innovation or production that relies on goal-oriented yet loosely coordinated participants who interact to create a product (or service) of economic value, which they make available to contributors and noncontributors alike."  This definition captures multiple instances, all joined by similar principles. For example, all of the elements — goods of economic value, open access to contribute and consume, interaction and exchange, purposeful yet loosely coordinated work — are present in an open source software project, in Wikipedia, or in a user forum or community. They can also be present in a commercial website that is based on user-generated content. In all of these instances of open collaboration, anyone can contribute and anyone can freely partake in the fruits of sharing, which are produced by interacting participants who are loosely coordinated.
An annual conference dedicated to the research and practice of open collaboration is the International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration (OpenSym, formerly WikiSym). As per its website, the group defines open collaboration as "collaboration that is egalitarian (everyone can join, no principled or artificial barriers to participation exist), meritocratic (decisions and status are merit-based rather than imposed) and self-organizing (processes adapt to people rather than people adapt to pre-defined processes)."
- Levine, Sheen S., & Prietula, M. J. (2013). Open Collaboration for Innovation: Principles and Performance. Organization Science, doi:10.1287/orsc.2013.0872
- Lakhani, Karim R., & von Hippel, Eric (2003). How Open Source Software Works: Free User to User Assistance. Research Policy, 32, 923–943 doi:10.2139/ssrn.290305
- Jarvenpaa, S. L., & Majchrzak, Ann (2008). Knowledge Collaboration Among Professionals Protecting National Security: Role of Transactive Memories in Ego-Centered Knowledge Networks. Organization Science, 19(2), 260-276 doi:10.1287/orsc.1070.0315
- Faraj, S., Jarvenpaa, S. L., & Majchrzak, Ann (2011). Knowledge Collaboration in Online Communities. Organization Science, 22(5), 1224-1239, doi:10.1287/orsc.1100.0614
- "Open collaboration leading to novel organizations - KurzweilAI".
- Levine, Sheen S.; Michael J. Prietula (2013-12-30). "Open Collaboration for Innovation: Principles and Performance". Organization Science: 131230050407004. ISSN 1047-7039. doi:10.1287/orsc.2013.0872. Retrieved 2014-08-31.
- Riehle, D.; Ellenberger, J.; Menahem, T.; Mikhailovski, B.; Natchetoi, Y.; Naveh, B.; Odenwald, T. (March 2009). "Open Collaboration within Corporations Using Software Forges" (PDF). IEEE Software. 26 (2): 52–58. ISSN 0740-7459. doi:10.1109/MS.2009.44.
- "About". The International Symposium on Open Collaboration.
- ". Dirk Riehle. "Definition of Open Collaboration". The Joint International Symposium on Open Collaboration. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
Open collaboration is collaboration that is egalitarian （everyone can join, no principled or artificial barriers to participation exist）, meritocratic （decisions and status are merit-based rather than imposed） and self-organizing （processes adapt to people rather than people adapt to pre-defined processes）.