“In spite of current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.”
For the past two years, I’ve had the fortune of partnering with Carole Martin to create and deliver a network leadership development program for regional and economic development in “the north country” (northern NH, southern Quebec, eastern VT). This opportunity was made possible by funding from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Foundation and took the form of something we called the Community Practitioners Network (CPN). Subsequently, some of the members of the first cohort have taken to calling it the “Community Placemakers Network” (more on that another time).
One of the first steps Carole and I took in creating the program was to begin with a set of principles, which, in good network fashion, evolved over time. These principles guided our design and facilitation of the program as it emerged, and we offered them to and co-evolved them with the cohort as they considered how to bring them to their own leadership in their organizations, communities, and beyond. Here is a condensed version of the lastest iteration of the principles:
- Look for what is beyond the immediate sight lines and intersections – Part of the power of networks is emergence; expect and delight in the unexpected that comes from the meeting of different minds and perspectives.
- Design for serendipity - Don’t try to control and account for all outcomes. First of all, it’s impossible. Secondly, as Andrew Goldsworthy once said, “Too much control can kill a work.”
- Periphery, not (just) center – Network action is not simply about what is happening “in the room” but what transpires “after the meeting,” not what goes on at a “steering group” level, but what happens in two-sies and three-sies that form/partner/innovate “out there.”
- Process sometimes counts as action – Creating stronger connections and building alignment among network members/participants can be significant progress.
- We move at the speed of trust – Make time and space for trust to be built.
- Contribution before credential – Contributions are what count, and can come from anyone.
- Feed the network through questions so that it has a life of its own – Using inquiry can help to unlock network potential in the pursuit of unique and context-specific answers.
Always eager to hear others and how you have put them to use . . .