Seeing and Being Through Networks

January 2, 2014 4 Comments

For those who read this blog on a somewhat regular basis, you know that we at IISC find and experience great promise in embracing network approaches to (and as) social change. So what happens when we truly see ourselves as and in networks; that is, appreciating how we are inextricably embodied through and embedded in interconnected flows of energy, material goods, ideas, intentions, etc.?

Ten thoughts, in no particular order, nor meant to be exhaustive:

  1. We are better able to see how work and life really happen.
  2. We might better understand patterns of influence and inequity.
  3. We can acknowledge and support key collaborative leadership and change functions such as process design, facilitation, convening, curation, network weaving . . .
  4. We might see that social and environmental responsibility (or what Peter Drucker once called “leading beyond the walls“) is not an extraneous moral consideration but an intrinsic survival imperative.
  5. We might be more willing to lead with the spirit of generosity and grateful receiving.
  6. We might value diversity as a source of resilience and richness.
  7. We might understand that building connectivity – bridging boundaries and creating trustful relationships – counts as a “result.”
  8. We might give up our efforts to try and control everything and devote more time to creating conditions for emergence and intelligent self organization.
  9. We might value contribution for its own sake and not limit ourselves with concerns about its source.
  10. We might “accept others as legitimate others” (Humberto Maturana’s definition of love).

Not to say that all of this happens on its own without discipline and discernment, without attention being paid to contextual uniqueness, existing structures of power and injustice, and our own “interior condition.”

What would a deeper appreciation of the networked nature of life bring to your work and the work of social change?


  • Terry Hill, PhD says:

    These are mostly ‘soft’ attributes to connectivity, often representing values and morals and emotional benefits of interaction. At some point leadership in social change requires ‘praxis’, or actual implementation of consensual goals and objectives. This is the toughest mission for on-line ‘communities’ of like minds, i.e., “putting your money where your mouth is” and actually doing something to change the world in a positive direction.

    • Durandus von Meissen says:

      And, of course, not every (if not, in fact, few) ‘objective’ goal possess emotional benefits once separated from the process of ‘getting to’ one’s ‘objectives’, being explicit goals of praxis; let alone personal as distinct from institutional values and their ‘moral’ estimation of worth: humane vs inhumane. Not to contradict, but how we get there (in other words) is at least as important as actually getting there.

      • Curtis Ogden says:

        Durandus, thank you for your response. We at IISC absolutely agree that how we get there is as important as getting there. Sometimes the biggest outcome is shifting how we hold the conversation and who is involved! That can prep the ground for effective self-organizing and self-determination.

    • Curtis Ogden says:

      Agreed Terry. And there is a very interesting conversation afoot in many of the networks of which we are a part about what constitutes “action.” Seen from a “top-down” perspective, we may not observe change in the same way as what is brewing and meaningful “on the ground.” Where we sit determines what we see and value. And of course, if nothing substantive really changes, well then, back to the drawing board.

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