Networks: Redefining Who and What Matters

May 3, 2016 3 Comments

Image by Tracy Kelly

Part of the underlying and deeper change potential of taking a network approach is the notion that we lead with contribution before credential. This means being open to the idea, for example, that a 15-year-old high schooler or home schooler might have as much to offer a given conversation as someone with a PhD, that lived experience can be as valuable if not more so than formal education, that those on the so-called “margins” often have a clearer view of what’s going on than those who sit at the center.

We all tend to see others, and ourselves, in limited ways, to see what constitutes “value” in specific and limited ways. Our vision is constrained, in part, by the fractured systems that we have inherited and that get reinforced on a daily basis, including existing patterns of connection (and disconnection) and flows of resources (or lack thereof). These “formal” systems (educational, economic, health care, political, etc.) make their own statements about what and who is of value.

The challenge, the opportunity and the invitation then is to engage in the work of redefining and reconnecting, to rewire and invigorate these systems so that new kinds of value flow in new ways for the benefit of all. This makes network building much more than simply building interpersonal relationships and trust, as much as that matters. It’s about changing the way see ourselves, one another, and really the world so that we can bring it closer to our shared vision.

In this sense, curiosity and generosity can lead to revolutionary acts. It starts with reaching inside and understanding our gifts and needs. It continues with reaching out, learning about and appreciating the offers and requests of others. Then in weaving the myriad threads of these discoveries we find the infrastructure of systems of greater abundance and equity that reflect and call on our better selves.

“We add value to society at large when we dare to connect.”

– Gibran X. Rivera



  • Carole Martin says:

    Thoughtful post, Curtis – so many times, we are limited by our unchecked assumptions of what is valuable – about ourselves and others.

    A fun way to play with this concept: each participant in a discussion (could be a learning circle or a dinner party – doesn’t matter…) identifies two “undervalued” skills they possess. Last time we did this as a group, I learned that one person was very skilled at finding four-leaf clovers (which led to a discussion about seeing the details in a morass) – another had perfected changing a bicycle tire tube in under 3 minutes (which lead to a discussion about working at something ’til we’re good at it).
    And so it goes…

  • I love this post, Curtis. This is what I appreciate most about networks also. Great contributions often come from undervalued or overlooked people. It’s great fun–and so rewarding–to see them get noticed.

    • Curtis Ogden says:


      Thanks for your comment, and for lifting up the fun and joy that can come from seeing others get due recognition! I think this re-valuation process is so critical to the work of social change, otherwise we are still playing with scarcity.



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