Networks for Change: Conditions for Success

February 5, 2014 2 Comments

The other day I was interviewed by Eugene Eric Kim for a project we are working on together, and he asked – “What are some of the keys to creating the conditions for successful networks for change?” I really like the question because it spurred some interesting reflection that yielded a few off-the-cuff insights that I wanted to share, extend, and test out here.

The phrase “Bring it!” came to mind as I was thinking about what is key to creating conditions for collaborative network success, with a number of iterative qualifiers:

  • Bring it, and let others bring it too.  It is critical that people are engaged, bring their enthusiasm and commitment and their full selves to the work . . . and when they make space for others’ enthusiasm, ideas, talents, understanding of and approaches to challenges.
  • Bring what you know and what you don’t know; and make space for others’ knowing.  Presumably we engage in collaborative networks because we know we cannot do the work on our own, and not simply because we are looking for more hands to carry out our pre-conceived notions.  As I heard C. Milano Harden say recently, “Bring your expertise, but don’t get trapped by it.”
  • Bring a sense of urgency, and an understanding that time and attention spent on process is vital.  At IISC we often use the phrase “go slow to go fast” to convey how important it is to spend time orienting diverse players to one another, building a foundation of trust, and making sense of complex issues before leaping to action.
  • Bring individual and organizational self-interest, and know that at the end of the day this can’t be the exclusive or even the primary driver.  It is to be expected that we bring our own agendas and questions to the table, and there is a bigger question waiting to be discovered of a deeper systemic nature that will make collaborative net work more impactful.
  • Bring critical, analytical, convergent thinking, and get used to “both/and” and divergent thinking.  “The answer” is likely to come in the form of a multiplicity of answers, some which may be known, others knowable, and others only to be serendipitously stumbled upon.
  • Bring and be aware of your power and privilege, and make sure to leverage it appropriately for equity and the greater good.  So much more to be said about this as being core to the work . . .
  • Bring your seriousness, and bring a sense of humor. Another way of putting it might be, take the issues seriously, and don’t take yourself too seriously.  Or as my mother likes to remind me, “Keep a space for joy.”

What would you add, adjust, challenge in the name of successfully setting up collaborative networks for change?


  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    Thanks for this Curtis. One more for your list:
    Bring your desire to work together, and recognize that in a healthy network different people may be doing different things at the same time.

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