Network and CommunityAugust 11, 2009 Leave a comment
As I prepare for my work with the Young People’s Project, I’ve been re-reading Building Community in Place. It is one of my favorite pieces by Bill Traynor of Lawrence Community Works. YPP has engaged Root Cause in a a rigorous Business Planning Process that is meant to take the organization to the next level. And IISC has been asked to partner with Root Cause and assist with the network-builiding aspects of the process.
As I prepare for what I’m sure will be a challenging and exciting process, I look back on Bill’s insights on network building (thankfully, LCW is an organizational partner in this process!) and his following quote really stands out:
“A network is best understood as an environment of connectivity rather than an organization in the traditional sense. At its best, it is an environment that is value driven and self-generating, where control and decision-making is dispersed and where being ‘well connected’ is the optimal state for any participant. Networks are established in order to create efficiency and optimum value for its participants – with only as much infrastructure as is needed to create effective connectivity. For instance, I would describe our network in Lawrence, Massachusetts, not as an organization, but as a bundle of thinking, language, habits, value propositions, space and practice – all designed to comprise an environment that more effectively meets people where they are and offers myriad opportunities and levels of engagement.”
I can’t think of a better way to highlight what is important in a network, and I am particularly thankful that this quote comes out of an effort to apply network building to the actual building of community in a given location. Bill’s paper is rich with insight that is grounded on actual experience, and while I could write a whole other paper in response, this is only a single blog post so I’ll leave you with a teaser – here are some of the common characteristics of a network:
- Fun First
- Low-Level Affiliation
- Form Follows Function
- The Connector as Leader
- Information Rich
- Interactive Spaces
- Diversity of People and Choices
- Using Collective and Aggregate Power
Try it this way!