Network "Governance" Take Two

July 7, 2010 5 Comments

|Photo by CatDancing||

Yesterday, Steve Waddell wrote an excellent post on the Networking Action blog about initiating a network.  In it, he talks about four lessons he’s learned in starting a network:

  1. Be passion-driven and work-focused
  2. Think “community-development” not “governance structure”
  3. Use leading tools
  4. Integrate reflection, learning and flexibility

Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post describing some of the ideas I had gotten from Jessica Lipnack about how to think about governance issues and networks.  After reading Steve Waddell’s piece, I’m starting to hone that thinking a little more.  Essentially they say much the same thing (determine the purpose-driven work that needs to happen and the minimum structure needed to accomplish that work).  A few of the additions, though are Steve’s concerns about talking abstractly about “governance structure”.  Any structure for a network, he says, “should arise out of the need to support a community of people to do work and experience from doing the work.”

As well, he talks about the work of immediately following up on issues from a meeting and supporting what needs to happen at the next meeting.  As he says,

“I have participated in far too many ‘event-focused’ initiatives, that have poured attention into organizing a meeting only to be insufficiently prepared to support the passion and ideas that arise out of it.  The result?  Dissipation of energy and lost opportunity.”

So focus needs to be placed on how to support the passion and energy in the group going forward.  What is needed to do that?  How can we best serve?

What else would you suggest thinking about?


  • Gibran says:

    Linda – thanks for pursuing this inquiry! So much of it has to do with how we think about work and its measurements which is of course a very hard thing to shift.

    I want to say “be clear about what you want to achieve, create an architecture of connectivity and be hyper-transparent about EVERYTHING!”

    But I’m left with the awareness that even as people try to work on projects and collaborations in a networked way they have to continue to live – be hosted and paid by – old paradigm structures that leave little room for the flexibility and space that is needed for self-organization.

    What might be a set of small steps that lead toward a larger culture shift?

  • Linda says:

    Yes Gibran. Jessica also pushed hard for transparency and for doing everything to shift from silos focusing on different aspects to deeply connected work. Communication, communication, communication! Thanks Gibran!

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    Thanks Linda. Two things to add:

    I’ve been part of a few event-focused initiatives that got swept up in event organizing rather than network building. What made it tougher was that only a few of the key leaders really understood and wanted to build a network. The rest were never entirely sold on the idea. Still, years later, a bunch of them are still finding ways to connect and work on things together when they can.

    Second, I struggle with the balance between emergence/ self organization and catalytic/weaver/leadership roles in networks. I’ve not seen very many examples of emergent self-organization. Any ideas?

  • Ellen Gurzinsky says:

    Hi. Thanks Linda for these blogposts on network governance. I read them with interest… and they raise several questions for me that need further exploration..

    I have a hard time separating governance from mission. So, if our mission is to promote activism on a particular issue – and you want to encourage the most number of individuals to participate in a decision making process– you might develop one kind of structure.

    If you want to develop a strong network of organizations, and also promote strong leadership within – you might need a different kind of structure.

    And i am not sure what that even means when we talk about organizing for the long haul – not event driven organizing. What is the relationship between strong networks and strong organizations? and strong movements?

    And there are questions about networking as a tool and not an outcome. Is that even possible?

    And finally, your blogs make me want to better understand the explicit and implicit generational, class, race, cultural and gender implications that drive network governance theory and learn from other movements i.e. horizontalism and the landless peasants…

    So much to explore and think about. Your blogs provoke.


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