October 20, 2020
Just wrapping up a bit of work with a national network that we at IISC helped to get off the ground 5 years ago, which has seen incredible growth and success in its efforts, and which continues to make progress in these times. For us, what this means is that they have really been hitting on what we call the collaborative dimensions of success – results, process and relationships (see image above). That said, some parts of the network (particular working groups) are humming along more so than others.
In our latest meeting with the network, we helped incubate new working groups (now taking their total to 13!) and also held a gathering of existing working group members to come up with a list of success factors and what they wish they had known at the outset to set themselves up for success. This list will be provided to the new working groups to help them along. I was struck by how many of the items on the list below align with what we teach in Facilitative Leadership for Social Change. While there is no exact recipe for success, we have found over the past 27 years that there are certain practices that create conditions for more likely fluid collaboration. ‘
Here is a list of 27 distinct but related success factors that were identified:
June 18, 2018
- Diversity; people with different skills and experiences, a diversity of vantage points, ideas, and learning curves.
- Dividing up roles – facilitator, recorder, timekeeper, liaison, etc.
- Willingness to grow and change our roles; not feeling one has to be in the original role.
- Establish group working agreements for collective accountability and be open to changing them as needed.
- Strong facilitation.
- Understanding of the difference between a working group chair and facilitator (these may or may not be the same person).
- Ensure everyone feels like they are able to contribute to group conversations if they want to; check for accessibility issues of various kinds.
- Intervene around those who would otherwise dominate conversation and shut others down.
- Comfort with letting go of an idea once it has been incubated; people understand that when they generate an idea or proposal that it might be changed or critiqued by the rest of the working group, to make it better.
- Loosen grip on ego.
- Have consistent meetings and touch points – monthly or bi-weekly – to keep on track.
- Practice an ethic of love, generosity and forgiveness.
- Open up to bigger sources of inspiration and creativity.
- Build common language; make sure that everyone understands any acronyms or technical terms being used.
- Use a process guide/map for helping working groups in their overall development and work planning; they can adjust as they see fit, but having a framework can be very helpful.
- Have an agenda for your meetings and follow it, until it doesn’t make sense to do so.
- Set desired outcomes each meeting, so you can determine where any conversation or agenda item is heading and when it’s over.
- Make sure your meeting agendas are realistic … put on it what you can actually get to; prioritize and manage the conversation.
- Give people time to connect with one another.
- Check for agreement and/or for clarity around key points before moving on.
- Make sure action items/next steps are captured at the end of each meeting and restated at the top of your minutes/group memory; revisit in your next meeting.
- Conduct process reviews of meetings (what worked, what could be improved); keep what’s working and make changes accordingly.
- Keep easy-to-digest minutes/group memories to maintain momentum; having consistent and capable support around this kind of record keeping, including key agreements and next step.
- Get meeting minutes/group memories out as soon as possible to everyone, including those who may have missed a meeting.
- Support onboarding of new members, so they can catch up easily and step into the flow – think about one-on-one conversations and mentorship.
- Provide easy access to/support around accessing shared documents, tools and platforms.
- Keep group size manageable – 10 is a nice size; if more consider sub-dividing for certain tasks (think in terms of small group ministry).
“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
February 9, 2017
Last year we organised a Peacebuilders Workshop to create space for practitioners involved in peacebuilding work locally to come together and critically appraise our practice and identify the lessons learned about peacebuilding in conflict/post-conflict contexts. The discussion at that workshop calls to mind a number of important aspects of peacebuilding work that align with our approach at IISC.
Peacebuilding requires at its core the kinds of human principles or values which resonate with those required for other kinds of social change work. These include creativity, relationship building, and networks. Read More
March 20, 2015
I have had many conversations recently about network form and transition, all of which have me thinking of what we often talk about in our practice at IISC: balancing acts. The core approach that informs our work in the world is Facilitative Leadership, which strives to create and inspire the conditions for collaborative and net work that yields greater, more sustainable and equitable change. In co-creating these conditions, as process designers, facilitators, trainers and coaches, we invoke a variety of practices and frameworks, each of which has its own dynamic range of considerations. Read More
May 20, 2014
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
April 16, 2014
Photo by Kevin Doyle. Some rights reserved.
Conferences and other large in-person convenings provide a great opportunity to launch and further develop networks for social change. As has been mentioned previously on this blog, and borrowing from the work of Plastrik and Taylor, at IISC we see networks for change as developing in various inter-related “modes,” including connectivity, alignment, and action. Paying attention to multiple dimensions of success can inform a variety of approaches to support a more robust, trust-bound, commonly-oriented, self-organizing and (as needed) formally coordinated collective.
Here are some methods to consider for convenings to help feed and grow networks for social change: Read More
October 10, 2012
A couple of weeks ago I put the following question out into the Twittersphere – “What leads to tipping points in networks for social change?” While I did not get any direct responses, I had a number of people say they were curious to hear what answers came back, and then my own brain was activated to look for movement towards greater impact in the networks with which I am involved in various ways. I also have been in touch with other network capacity builders about their observations. Clearly there is no silver bullet for rendering networks more effective, but there are some key ingredients and rites of passage that seem to come up in most. Here is what I’ve seen and heard:
February 2, 2011
|Image from cambodia4kidsorg|http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/2296887265|
I’ve been working with a couple of organizations and initiatives lately as they discuss enhancing their strategies for stakeholder engagement. Throughout all of this work is the emerging awareness that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in our field with respect to what engagement means and looks like. This, of course, has been captured by many writers and thinkers who have been looking closely at what social media is enabling (see, for example, Clay Shirky’s work, the Working Wikkily blog, or the writings of Beth Kanter and Allison Fine). And at the same time there is a realization that this is not just about technology, but a return to some of what we’ve forgotten as well as a step towards something new. Read More