Network and Community

August 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:

  1. Fun First
  2. Low-Level Affiliation
  3. Form Follows Function
  4. The Connector as Leader
  5. Information Rich
  6. Interactive Spaces
  7. Diversity of People and Choices
  8. Using Collective and Aggregate Power

Try it this way!

No Comments

  • Curtis says:

    “. . . with only as much infrastructure as is needed to create effective connectivity.” What is this were a guideline for the creation of our organizations? Would we cut a lot of the excess layers of structure? Would we be liberated or spinning our wheels? Feeling out the boundary between adhocracy and bureaucracy . . .

  • Gibran says:

    I’m right there with you brother, I like how when you and I do our network modules we show the tension between such seeming opposites, what came to my mind when I read your comment was this quote from John Gall: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.”

  • Federico A. Rivera says:

    ‘Networks are established in order to create efficiency and optimum value for its participant’ – I do think this sentence states what many nonprofit organizations should and could be striving for. To often, many are stuck in their ‘old ways’ and can’t see how to cut waste and build efficiency streams to serve their participants/partners. I also think what’s missing from many conversations is how to create lean methods that compliment on building efficiency while establishing rigorous standards of work that Toyota and Southwest Airlines have implemented. I’m actually learning more about lean thinking methods and will pick up Bill Traynor’s booklet. sounds interesting.

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