We often think of harmonisation as the process of becoming the same rather than contributing to something greater than us. The Cambridge dictoinary defines harmony as: 1. a pleasant musical sound made by different notes being played or sung at the same time. 2. a situation in which people are peaceful and agree with each other, or when things seem right or suitable together.

In music, singers are singing the same song, but different parts. It is in their coming together that harmony is achieved. Peaceful or harmonious living includes different, individual people agreeing (intentionally or unconsciously) to a set of rules or ways of behaving.

In the digital and data space, too often we confuse interoperability and harmonisation with ‘sameness’. We assume the only way to harmonisation is for everyone to use the same data management system. We forget harmonisation can also be achieved through everyone collecting the same dataset to enable easier comparison and analysis (if needed). The dataset is like the songsheet, while each agency brings its own way of singing the song. Together the harmony can be beautiful.

The way to harmonisation is not just one. It’s also not just two either. There are mutliple ways to harmonisation and when we limit it to only one way we unnecessarily limit and frustrate ourselves and others.

Harmonisation is not about the loss of individuality, but rather the bringing together of individuals, highlighting their uniqueness, and creating something bigger than the individual parts.

The choice is up to us.

Photo by David Beale


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