June 18, 2018
“Words are how we think, stories are how we link.”
– Christina Baldwin
Last week I had the privilege of facilitating a two-day Network Learning Lab for a remarkable group of conservation leaders and network weavers. I co-designed the session with Olivia Millard and Amanda Wrona of The Nature Conservancy (and at the instigation of Lynn Decker of the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network) to connect and strengthen the capacity of those working at the intersection of ecosystem health and human/community development while building networks at local, state, regional, national and global levels. Our design was informed by input given by the participating network weavers themselves about their core challenges and learning objectives, while leaving room for the unexpected – enough spaciousness for the network magic of emergence to happen.
As with other network leadership institutes that we at IISC have had a hand in designing and facilitating, the experience last week had as its foundation plenty of opportunities for the cohort to authentically connect, to get to know one another on both professional and personal levels. And as with both leadership development sessions and ongoing network development initiatives that we support, we turned to storytelling as a way to create bonds and understanding. This included time for the participants to tell brief stories about their networks, doing so in 5 minute informal bursts sprinkled throughout the two days (which could also have been done as Pecha Kucha or Ignite presentations). The intent was to create a bit more understanding of what might make each network unique in its aspirations, attributes and accomplishments and to whet people’s appetites for further conversation at breaks, meals and into the evening.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
– Maya Angelou
We also set up a couple of exercises within the first hour of the lab for people to hear more about one another’s paths to the work they currently do, not by ticking off their resumes, but by telling stories about what happened to and moved them to be where they are now. Time and again, when I facilitate this kind of exercise, it shifts the tone of the gathering in the direction of greater openness and trust. And as we touched on in our debrief of those exercises, inviting that kind of storytelling into our work can send a signal about what is validated with respect to forms of knowing, expression and parts of ourselves to bring to the table. Along these lines, we also drew from poetry and other forms of creative expression, including a stanza from a favorite William Stafford piece, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other” which, to me, gets at the heart of network building … Read More
October 9, 2013
|Photo by USDAGov|http://www.flickr.com/photos/41284017@N08/7740419400/in/photolist-cMZF1U-9bjsio-9ZTS3b-9UWk5k-fomtZ4-9UYk2h-agjHzA-agjHTo-ajSoZJ-agBMia-ajSogU-ajPA7r-9X7pyg-9UVcQZ-9UVnmz-9UVof4-9X1Gip-9ZTSSh-9X1S7v-9X4syC-9ZQZbV-9X1Mbc-9UVktD-9UVqix-9UVrU6-9UYipj-9X1Kh2-9X1PgP-9X1SSH-9X1QhF-9ZQZSx-a4uQan-9X4DWN-9X1Eut-9X4va3-9X1CqT-9X1HtB-9X4x9W-a4xKTw-9X1BKF-9X1R5e-a4uUin-a4uPkp-ccXodW|
I am increasingly interested in how networks can help to reclaim and reshape marketplaces, bringing them back down to earth and keeping them more stimulating of local economies, helping give value to what is not formally valued, as well as shifting and restructuring flows for greater equity and abundance. So I was delighted to get a number of tips on this front from Lawrence CommunityWorks during a visit there last week. Staff and residents shared a number of ways in which they help to identify and exchange assets as a part of daily operations. For example, here is an exercise called “Marketplaces” which comes from Bill Traynor. Read More
February 4, 2010
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With the dust now fairly settled from President Obama’s first State of the Union Address, I feel like it’s safe to offer a few comments here without being labeled an aspiring pundit. IISC friend and fellow network-phile Bill Traynor of Lawrence CommunityWorks captured some of my own feelings initially – impressed by the speech, on board . . . for now. Coming into that evening I was concerned about what I had been picking up as a big push of the “Obama brand”, leading me to ask along with Naomi Klein whether the man in the Oval Office is more about symbolic gesture than substantive change. Suffice to say that I don’t have the behind-the-scenes knowledge to confidently declare how much is actually getting done. But to the extent that anything in front of the curtain matters, and we know at least some of it does, I came away with some real adaptive leadership lessons from the SOTU Address.
October 6, 2009
The gap between theory and practice is always larger than we tend to see. I love my job because it consistently invites me to help groups bridge this gap. I just had a beautiful time working with a group of network weavers who are part of the Young People’s Project. The task is to help them understand how networks work and how to behave as weavers for their own national network.
The challenge of this work has been to take all the amazing things we are learning about the role of weavers in a network and figure out how to apply these to the day to day work of these weavers. Instead of spending too much of our time in the fuzzy world of network theory, I grabbed directly from Jack Ricchiuto’s piece on The Power of Network Weaving and went on to adapt it to very practical exercises for the weavers. Read More
August 11, 2009
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. Read More