Over the last few weeks I have fielded a number of calls from people who are interested in figuring out how to develop different kinds of networks. I’m always eager to have these conversations, precisely because there is no single right answer, and it really comes down to a process of discovery and experimentation based on the unique nature of the network and system in question. That said, I do like to ask people the question, “What are you doing to feed your network?”Read More
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 approachesto (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: Read More
I’ve spent time the past week reading through Networks that Work, a handy and concise resource for developing organizational networks, written by Paul Vandeventer, President and CEO of Community Partners, and Myrna Mandell, Ph.D. The book lays out some very helpful pointers for more formally constructed networks. I have highlighted 10 pointsbelow that resonate with our experiences at IISC around supporting organizational networks for social change. My comments and extensions are in italics: Read More
Last Friday, I worked with the Network Support Team (NST) of the Connecticut Food System Alliance (CFSA) to facilitate a gathering of over 100 food system and food security activists. This was the fourth convening in the past year and a half, and featured what have become typical elements of fostering connectivity between people (welcoming and introducing ourselves to new people, learning together, making offers and requests) and alignment around the CFSA vision. And to honor what has been growing in the network as both a call for and a question about the possibility of collective action, NST members Melissa Spear, Marilyn Moore, and Jiff Martin created the following exercise to stimulate people’s thinking about how the network could “change the game” in Connecticut and boldly advance the state towards a reality where “everyone has access to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and affordable food.”Read More
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this week the Vermont Farm to Plate (F2P) Network held its third annual convening. This marked the move to the third year of the F2P Network’s existence, and another significant milestone.
At the first convening in 2011, there was a mix of enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity, impatience, and some reticence. Many were intrigued by the notion of this new form of multi-organizational collaboration seeking to double local food production in 10 years time, boost the state economy, and address issues of food access and security. Read More
I had a virtual exchange the other day with Jane Wei-Skillern of Stanford University, as we discussed different ideas for going beyond case studies to help engage people in thinking in networked ways. This is what came to mind at the time, and I am eager to hear from others what you have done:
In the past I have asked people to think about network forms or topologies (hub and spoke, mesh, distributed); assign different forms to pairs/trios and have them think about what examples of that form exist in their lives. What are the strengths of that form? What are its limitations? How might they shift it to be more “effective” in terms of desired impact?
Our friend Jane Wei-Skillern recently co-wrote (along with Nora Silver and Eric Heitz) another valuable contribution to the growing “network building” body of literature, entitled “Cracking the Network Code: Four Principles for Grantmakers.” This piece is part of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ learning initiative, Scaling What Works. While the guide mainly addresses funders, it also has something for those outside of the philanthropic world. Its core offering is a set of principles to guide what the authors call “the network mindset”: Read More
|Image from Lefteris Heretakis|http://www.flickr.com/photos/95935106@N00/3665497225/in/photolist-6zUCC2-6BpvKw-6GGt4g-6GGXZc-6GGYot-6GHhqz-6GHp7H-6GHpp4-6GHqMH-6GLRUo-6GM1BA-6GMkcC-6GMrR7-6GMsPL-6GMtfG-6GMuoE-6TQXh7-6TQYpj-7bbit4-7bbkSv-7bbne6-7bf7K5-cBB2DY-edAhP2-cf78xW-cBAZTs-cBB4id-cBB5wU-9Nzeot-9NC3F5-eNPtU8-dnk5ox-dw5A4n-f7FkSo-a62gzE-9sPsft-b34pnk-dw5Buk-8bqEKN-8bqEMy-8bnotB-8bnowM-8bnoux-8bqEqN-8bnojc-8bqEyf-bG7p8c-8bqEAY-8bnovv-8bqEty-8bnocX|
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a gathering, convened by the Garfield Foundation, of “network building” practitioners interested in advancing this field for the sake of making more progress around fundamental social change, including greater social equity and sustainable communities. The launch point for our discussions was the successful RE-AMP network that Garfield has supported for several years now in the midwestern United States. We began by looking at a framework for change that has emerged from RE-AMP’s experience, while acknowledging that this is a data point of one. From here we talked about what we are all learning in our respective experiences, and perhaps more importantly, what we do not know. There were several themes that I heard emerging in our conversations, and I wanted to highlight one in this post, which is reflected in the title – how we begin and bound our efforts matters.Read More
“Thinking in terms of networks can enable us see with new eyes.”
– Harold Jarche
Photo by David Shankbone
The biological sciences have revealed that all living things in an ecosystem are interconnected through networks of relationship; that is, they literally depend upon a web of life to survive and to thrive. On the social science front, we are also beginning to appreciate that groups, organizations, and communities depend upon and function in distributed networks of relationship that go beyond contrived boundaries, formal roles, communications, or decision-making protocols. After all, we are a part of life! Read More
I recently had an email exchange with someone who was reflecting on the difficulty of bridging the divides in a nascent network in the southern United States that is trying to tackle the local food system. Trying to reconcile differences (owing to diversity in functional lens, experience, generational perspective, social location, etc.) around a topic this vast can be very challenging. And I think this is precisely why networks are especially good mechanisms, and why adopting the “network mindset” is an excellent approach, moving forward, especially when borrowing from the framework above (adapted from Plastrik and Taylor’s work, 20o6). Read More
While doing some research on network evaluation techniques, I stumbled on a very helpful and interesting resource entitled “Network Evaluation: Cultivating Healthy Networks for Social Change” by Eli Malinsky and Chad Lubelsky (respectively for the Centre for Social Innovation and the Canada Millenium Scholarship Foundation). While it dates back to 2008 (5 years seeming like eons these days), the paper does a nice job of raising some of the inherent and necessary tensions and balancing acts of engaging in “net work.” I lifted a number of quotes from the paper as a preface to some thoughts about network value, which I laid out according to a framework that I developed (see above) using the work of Peter Plastrik and Madeleine Taylor in their seminal “Net Gains: A Handbook for Network Builders Seeking Social Change.”