Part 3 of Three Lenses for Collaboration
The second lens through which the Interaction Institute for Social Change looks at collaboration is the lens of networks. I think about this as one of the most important interventions on the sector, the shift from an organization centric paradigm to a network paradigm. The good news is that this shift is already happening; the even better news is that this shift calls for stronger and deeper forms of collaboration.
In the recent Convergence report, LaPiana consulting identifies the fact that “networks enable work to be organized in new ways” as one of five converging trends that will redefine the social sector. It is important to understand that while there is a close relationship between new social technology and our capacity to work in networks, the shift to a network paradigm is not just a technological shift – it is a different way of organizing how we work together, a different paradigm for collaboration.
Kevin Kelly says that “the only organization capable of unprejudiced growth, or unguided learning, is a network… it incorporates the dimension of time. It honors internal change… A distributed, decentralized network is more process than a thing… there is shift from nouns to verbs.” The shift to a network paradigm enables the next phase of movement in a globalized society that is facing some of its most serious and complex challenges. There is no organization or group of organizations that can effectively lead us through desperately needed adaptive changes, but we can lead ourselves through networks.
The evolutionary process is one that transcends and includes. Whatever is currently working well within the organization-centric paradigm should be allowed to last, but limiting attributes should be discarded. Life in networks demands that sort of collaboration that unlocks our self-motivation and facilitates experimentation in an environment of constant learning.
It is easier to understand how a network paradigm facilitates social change when we think of it in terms of an ecology for social transformation. The shift is away from the industrial lens through which we look at our linear organizational charts and towards the more organic, interconnected and emergent lens through which we look at ecological systems. What is it that needs to be in place in order for more of us to thrive in our efforts to bring forth a better world? And how is this part of an ecology that can sustain itself?