Picking up on the spirit of yesterday’s post about asking “beautiful questions” and inspired by a staff challenge to articulate lines of inquiry stemming from IISC’s core lenses, I offer this post. It distills some of the underlying questions that adopting a “network lens” inspires for social change work. Please add, adjust, edit, and rift!
How does your organization/network/change initiative strive to add value to (rather than duplicate) existing efforts? What do you do best, and how might you then connect to the rest?
What are you doing to support and strengthen connections and alignment within and beyond your organization/network/change initiative?
Every now and then we get the question about what is the best way to structure a social change network, to which the most frequent response is, “It depends.” Case in point, in a past post, I offered examples of three different network forms growing out of the same region (New England) in a similar field (food systems). These forms that have evolved in three states have largely depended upon the initial framing question for the change effort (how to tackle food insecurity vs. how to grow the agricultural economy vs. how to achieve food justice), contextual factors (political dynamics, what already exists, who is engaged), and resources (not just funding, but certainly funding) available. And since the writing of that post, each has evolved, more or less significantly, in line with new challenges and opportunities. Some of the take-aways from this align with the lessons of moving from a more mechanistic to a regenerative outlook –
I’ve been thinking a lot about process. What is the best way to get things done? What is the most collaborative and inclusive way to move forward? Our bias towards inclusion, towards a process that is truly democratic, can often seem at odds with the idea that “action trumps everything.” Read More
Thanks to Harold Jarche for turning me on to this beta codex network presentation about seeing and designing organizations as networks. It captures much of the learning that has been coming out of our work at IISC with different kinds and scales of networks for social change. Below is a list of ten key points from the presentation: Read More
Seeing the words “Critical Systems Heuristics” may tempt you to run screaming from this post, but please hang in there while I distill what this important framework and addition to the systems thinking body of work has to offer our social change efforts! CSH is attributed to Swiss social scientist Werner Ulrich and his efforts to bring critical analysis to the boundaries that we construct around and within systems. Far from being primordial, these boundaries and divisions are an expression of what people see and value from their particular perspectives. As Ulrich writes, ” The methodological core idea [of CSH] is that all problem definitions, proposals for improvement, and evaluations of outcomes depend on prior judgments about the relevant whole system to be looked at.” His effort is to help make these boundary judgments explicit so that both those affected by and those implementing such judgements might see alternatives that better serve the whole. Read More
|Photo by Siew Yi Liang|http://www.flickr.com/photos/sonictk/361505937|
One of the comments that often comes up in our popular workshop, Facilitative Leadership goes something like this, “It’s great that I’m learning all of these practical leadership and facilitation skills, but what happens when I’m not the one leading or facilitating?” How can we keep things rolling when we aren’t formally in charge and when formal leadership is not so skillful. My answer today: there’s always an opportunity to lead, ask good questions, facilitate from the chair! Read More
|Photo by Qoncept|http://www.flickr.com/photos/37418570@N03/4488784822|
Fresh off of an offering of Pathway to Change to a group of leaders from across sectors in southern Massachusetts, and with another 3 day workshop on the horizon in San Francisco (July 24-26), I’ve been considering how the theme of fear often comes up in discussions about impediments and challenges to effective collaborative change work – fear of failure, fear of losing something, fear of the unknown. And I’ve been more and more convinced by how important intentional, creative, and strategic process design is in building pathways through this fear. This notion has been validated in the writing of Chip and Dan Heath, most recently in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. In a one page summary, the Heath brothers highlight the important three steps of: (1) directing our rational selves (what exactly are we trying to accomplish?), (2) motivating our emotional selves (what’s so compelling about that future destination? why can’t the current conditions continue?), and creating a clear path between where we are now and where we want to be. Read More
As I prepare to do a couple of trainings for leadership in multi-stakeholder networks in the New England region (focus being on the skills of facilitation, process design, and managing decision-making), I intend to frame our conversations with some exploration of the differences between traditional organizational leadership and what is required to steward networks towards positive impact. I begin with the presumption that network form and function are chosen strategically for the ability to accomplish something that could not be done at all or as well through other approaches. Whether trying to develop a food system to eliminate food insecurity or change an educational system to yield more equitable opportunities and outcomes, the attraction to a network approach is likely due to a desire for some combination of the following: Read More
IISC Senior Associate, Cynthia Parker, answers the question asked in a staff learning session, “What do we know from our years of doing collaborative capacity building and social change work?” Recorded at Space With a Soul on February 6, 2012.
|Photo by grongar|http://www.flickr.com/photos/grongar/4965343939|
Building on yesterday’s post of the video about sociocracy, and inspired by the work of John Buck and Sharon Villines that I mentioned there, I’ve been pulling together a list of ways that leaders at all levels in organizations and networks might encourage more collective self-organizing, self-correcting, resilient and adaptive behavior. Here’s a start and I invite readers to please add: Read More
|Photo by http2007|http://www.flickr.com/photos/http2007/2204187170|
In this week’s public Pathway to Change workshop in San Francisco, participants engaged in a practice meeting facilitated by some of their colleagues that focused on effective means of building power in collaborative change efforts to enhance their overall effectiveness to realize more just ends. The assumptions going into the conversation were that power is defined as the capacity to influence people and one’s environment, create change, address needs, pursue desires, and/or protect interests. Furthermore we suggested that power is not a fixed asset that people possess. Rather, it is socially constructed, understood, and legitimized through social relationships among individuals and groups of people. Given that it is not fixed, it can also grow or be grown.
So here is the list of ideas that surfaced for ways to build power and we certainly invite your reactions and additions (items in bold ended up being given higher priority by the group): Read More
|Photo by Vvillamon|http://www.flickr.com/photos/villamon/4468869725|
In a recent article in Administration and Society, Sonia M. Ospina and Angel Saz-Carranza consider how it is that leadership in multi-organizational networks carries out vital balancing acts. On the one hand, they consider ways to navigate the internal tension between creating unity and honoring diversity among stakeholders. On the other hand, they look at how the balance is struck between confrontation and dialogue when doing outward-facing work. The source of their insights are the experiences of two urban immigration coalitions in the United States.
By way of summary, to successfully address paradox in the context of balancing unity and diversity inside the network, Ospina and Saz-Carranza observed leadership doing the following: Read More