“It’s about redefining ‘doing.’”
A question that has come up across a lot of the network building and advancement work with which I’ve been involved lately is one form of “What constitutes ‘doing’?” I would say that it is a fairly predictable pattern that people come together to launch the network, eager to take action to increase local food production and/or food access, to restructure the education system for more equitable outcomes, etc., and they pretty quickly discover that there is some foundation building they need to do first. This work includes building trust and relationships and establishing some common expectations, goals, processes, and indicators for their collaborative efforts. After a while, another pretty predictable dynamic occurs when people who often identify themselves as “activists” and “doers” start to ask, “When are we actually going to DO something?!” And then we see the classic tension emerge between what often gets labelled as “talking vs. doing” or process vs. action.
In a post from last week, I considered the importance of looking at the success and impact of networks through the lens of results, process, and relationships. Building on this, I thought it might be helpful here to break down the “how” of net work, in terms of its myriad value-adding activities (listed alphabetically and hardly complete) that align with different action network “altitudes” (steering level, work groups, ad hoc task groups, existing programs and initiatives). I thank Beth Tener in New Hampshire, Ellen Kahler and Erica Campbell in Vermont, Carole Martin in Maine, and Leo Pollock in Rhode Island for the conversations that have fleshed this out. Perhaps this will help those convening such endeavors to be more strategic about directing focus across and beyond the process/action divide.
Mapping (power, systems, relationships)