Tag Archive: convenor

February 24, 2016

Network Leadership Roles 2.0

“Network entrepreneurs are keenly aware that they are few among many working across the larger system, and in this way they embody a special type of … leader[ship].”

– Jane Wei-Skillern, David Ehrlichman, & David Sawyer

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Image from Taro Taylor – https://www.flickr.com/photos/tjt195/30916171

The concept of leadership has been undergoing an evolution. In this “network age” there appears to be both an expanding appreciation that leadership has always been about more than the singular heroic individual, and that going forward, leadership really must be much more of a shared endeavor.

In our collaborative consulting work at IISC, leadership (or what we often call Facilitative Leadership) is about “holding the whole,” thinking expansively about the state of a given complex system (community, economy, ecosystem, etc.) and paying attention to what will be required to ensure resiliency and/or change for more equitable and sustainable benefit. In these situations, the traditional top-down images of leadership fall far short.

Network leadership is at best a dynamic, diverse, more decentralized and multi-dimensional phenomenon. Many of those with whom we partner at IISC understand this implicitly, and we have found it important to help them be more explicit about this by clearly delineating the roles that leadership can embody in a collaborative/networked change endeavor. Read More

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March 28, 2012

Funders by Other Names

Earlier this year I co-facilitated a learning session on collaborative social change process design and stakeholder engagement approaches for a group of foundation employees from around the country.  As we got deeper into the conversation, some of the participants began to speak to their own doubts about the effectiveness of grantmaking, especially when it only focuses on grantmaking.  “In the larger scope of things,” said one program officer, “our money is just a drop in the bucket.”  “Frankly,” said another, “there are other ways we can add value, but we limit our own validation of these efforts by calling ourselves ‘grantmakers.'”  Interesting.  As we explored other avenues for change agency, it was as if we were tapping into the work going on here in Michigan through the Council of Michigan Foundations. Read More

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November 2, 2011

The Special Sauce

sauce

|Photo by jennikokodesu|http://www.flickr.com/photos/jennikokodesu/4459697786|

“I just wanted to tell all of you that I feel truly honored to have played even a small part in what transpired today. In fact, I would go so far as to say you are the best, most fun, most highly evolved group of humans I have ever worked with.”

This is not the kind of email you get everyday.  It comes from one of the participants in the process design group of a state-wide food system building effort with which I have been involved for the past year and for which I am the lead designer and facilitator.  To be clear, the purpose of this post is not to blow my own horn.  It would be outrageous for me to take credit for something the size and complexity of which goes well beyond my individual talents and contributions.  Rather, I am very eager to explore what stands behind this comment, as it reflects a commonly held feeling that something special has been going on with this initiative and group since it was initiated and led up to the launch of a Food Policy Council last week. Read More

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October 5, 2011

Growing a Food Network

“Networks are not just about sharing the pie.  They are about growing the pie.”

– Ellen Kahler, VSJF

It has been a privilege and an inspiration to spend the past two days working with my colleague Beth Tener and the amazing team at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) to help launch the Farm to Plate Network.  Over 150 people came together to connect and take the conversation deeper around how they want to work together to double local food production in the state over the next 10 years, as a way of boosting economic development, increasing jobs, and ensuring that every resident has access to healthy food. A big rallying cry has been the devastation that Tropical Storm Irene wrought on the farming community. And as we learned from former Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee during a very enlightening presentation about the Great Flood of 1927, once again Vermonters responded in ways that have impressed those (including the American Red Cross) who came to help, with their self-organizing and neighborly efforts to get one another back on track.

In an encouraging speech to launch the proceedings, Governor Shumlin highlighted the challenges and opportunities that stem from the changing climate that is predicted to increase precipitation 20% in the state in years to come. “Our best days are ahead of us if we can pull together,” he said. Read More

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June 16, 2011

A Breakthrough Moment

breakthrough

|Image by MiRo740|http://www.flickr.com/photos/11558475@N04/2080024629|

The storming had begun.  For the first few meetings, the team had engaged in “feel good” conversations, getting to know one another, breaking bread together, laughing, and bonding around their shared desire to build a stronger local food system to ensure community food security.  They had agreed to a set of values and a vision to guide their work.  Now they were diving into more of the specifics.  What would the scope of the work be and what wouldn’t it include? Read More

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March 31, 2011

Funder as Convenor: Part 1

mi casa

|Photo by Keith Williamson|http://www.flickr.com/photos/elwillo/5440401913|

The more I do our collaborative consulting work here at IISC, the more interested I become in the role of the convenor in complex multi-stakeholder change efforts.  This role, typically held in our work by a funder or someone else with convening power (local/state government, school district, a well-connected community-based agency) has much to say about the success and nature of a social change effort, and yet from my perspective remains under-appreciated and/or poorly misunderstood.  Over the next few months I’ll spend some time in this space reflecting on what we and others are learning about this critical role and soliciting your thoughts, reactions, and experiences.

But first, what does it mean to convene?  In our practice, convening is one of a few central leadership functions in collaborative and networked approaches to change.  Read More

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March 3, 2011

AMP-ing Up Our Work

REAMP

Over a year ago, during a network building community of practice meeting, future IISC board member, Idelisse Malave, suggested that I take a look at the RE-AMP Energy Network as a successful example of a multi-organizational network.  I made some initial calls to their coordinator and ended up dropping the ball (oh look, a squirrel).  Then a few weeks ago I was alerted to a new case study from the Monitor Institute about that very network.  And so we have Transformer: How to build a network to change a system, a wonderful report about what has contributed to the successes of a regional network that has been making great headway in reducing greenhouse gas reductions in the Midwest over the past six years.  Lead author, Heather McLeod Grant, a past participant in our network building community of practice, renders a great service in elucidating six key and contributing principles to RE-AMP’s success, many of which have great resonance with our experiences at IISC around designing and facilitating complex and collaborative multi-stakeholder change efforts. Read More

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February 3, 2011

Lessons of Collaboration Gone Bad

dispute

“It’s hard to make a difference when everyone is tangled up in the rigging of procedural formality and blanketed in fog.”

-Roberta’s Rules of Order

With all of the snow days we’ve had so far in 2011, you’ll understand if I begin this post from a “when things don’t go according to plan” mindset. We’ve all taken our lumps in doing collaborative work, even with the best laid plans and best intentions in place. I’ve had the opportunity to do a little reflecting (in between tours of duty shoveling) on what has made for more successful and less successful collaborative endeavors, and here are some of the important lessons I’ve learned when things have not gone as well as had been hoped for: Read More

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January 26, 2011

Roles of Collaborative “Leadership”

networked

|Photo by tarotastic|http://www.flickr.com/photos/tjt195/30916171|

Last week it was my humble privilege to be part of an august team of network thinkers and consultants as we delivered on our contract of working with community-based organizations that are involved in the pioneering Renew Boston initiative.  My teammates included Steve Waddell, Madeleine Taylor, Beth Tener, Tom Cosgrove, Nick Jehlen, Noelle Thurlow, Carl Sussman, and Bruce Hoppe.  Our deliverable ultimately emerged in the form of an action learning forum focused on best practices and challenges around enrolling community members in an exciting money-saving program that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy. As part of the forum, we collectively offered and demonstrated net work tools and strategies for enhancing overall success.

At one point a comment was made by one of the participants about the importance of leadership, which spurred some break-time conversation between a few of us on the consulting team.  Truth be told, we never came to full agreement as a consulting team on what we mean by “networks” (I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to avoid conversations about orthodoxy and instead focus on the practical implications of what is otherwise a shared felt sense or essence) but I think we all agreed that leadership is a tricky concept when applied to new distributed ways of working. Read More

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January 26, 2011

Roles of Collaborative "Leadership"

networked

|Photo by tarotastic|http://www.flickr.com/photos/tjt195/30916171|

Last week it was my humble privilege to be part of an august team of network thinkers and consultants as we delivered on our contract of working with community-based organizations that are involved in the pioneering Renew Boston initiative.  My teammates included Steve Waddell, Madeleine Taylor, Beth Tener, Tom Cosgrove, Nick Jehlen, Noelle Thurlow, Carl Sussman, and Bruce Hoppe.  Our deliverable ultimately emerged in the form of an action learning forum focused on best practices and challenges around enrolling community members in an exciting money-saving program that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy. As part of the forum, we collectively offered and demonstrated net work tools and strategies for enhancing overall success.

At one point a comment was made by one of the participants about the importance of leadership, which spurred some break-time conversation between a few of us on the consulting team.  Truth be told, we never came to full agreement as a consulting team on what we mean by “networks” (I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to avoid conversations about orthodoxy and instead focus on the practical implications of what is otherwise a shared felt sense or essence) but I think we all agreed that leadership is a tricky concept when applied to new distributed ways of working. Read More

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November 11, 2010

Ready to Launch

WCMGFTomorrow my colleague Melinda and I officially launch an exciting endeavor with the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund in Connecticut, as we meet for the first time with a Process Team that will begin designing a state-wide early childhood systems building initiative.  The Memorial Fund is stepping boldly into its leadership as a convenor, at the urging of its grantees and the many communities with whom it has cultivated deep trust.  In its sights is a process that ultimately yields a broadly shared and community-rooted vision for providing high quality and equitable care and education for all of the Connecticut’s youngest children, as well as policies and structures that support greater community-state collaboration towards this vision. Read More

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