July 10, 2014
“In spite of current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.”
-Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze (2006)
For the past two years, I’ve had the fortune of partnering with Carole Martin to create and deliver a network leadership development program for regional and economic development in “the north country” (northern NH, southern Quebec, eastern VT). This opportunity was made possible by funding from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Foundation and took the form of something we called the Community Practitioners Network (CPN). Subsequently, some of the members of the first cohort have taken to calling it the “Community Placemakers Network” (more on that another time).
One of the first steps Carole and I took in creating the program was to begin with a set of principles, which, in good network fashion, evolved over time. These principles guided our design and facilitation of the program as it emerged, and we offered them to and co-evolved them with the cohort as they considered how to bring them to their own leadership in their organizations, communities, and beyond. Here is a condensed version of the lastest iteration of the principles:
- Look for what is beyond the immediate sight lines and intersections – Part of the power of networks is emergence; expect and delight in the unexpected that comes from the meeting of different minds and perspectives.
- Design for serendipity – Don’t try to control and account for all outcomes. First of all, it’s impossible. Secondly, as Andrew Goldsworthy once said, “Too much control can kill a work.”
- Periphery, not (just) center – Network action is not simply about what is happening “in the room” but what transpires “after the meeting,” not what goes on at a “steering group” level, but what happens in two-sies and three-sies that form/partner/innovate “out there.”
- Process sometimes counts as action – Creating stronger connections and building alignment among network members/participants can be significant progress.
- We move at the speed of trust – Make time and space for trust to be built.
- Contribution before credential – Contributions are what count, and can come from anyone.
- Feed the network through questions so that it has a life of its own – Using inquiry can help to unlock network potential in the pursuit of unique and context-specific answers.
Always eager to hear others and how you have put them to use . . .
March 31, 2014
This post continues a conversation that Curtis Ogden started last week. (Process is Where Change Happens) It’s a conversation we’ve been having for years at IISC. On one hand, we recognize the importance of understand how thinking shapes the systems we produce and reproduce. And it’s important to understand that inequities and oppression are not just a matter of thinking that can be changed simply by changing our minds. I’ve often been impatient with the “change your thinking, change the world” discourse because I’ve seen it used as an excuse for avoiding discussing the systems dynamics and the resulting inequities they produce. Still, I think there are a few ways in which focusing on the change “in here” can provide power for changing conditions “out there.”
March 3, 2014
Four compelling questions came to me via the monthly newsletter of Conditioning Leaders, led by our colleague Madeline McNeely. She’s reflecting on 20 years of work and asking herself some great questions that we should all be asking ourselves as our year gets into full swing:
January 19, 2014
Check out this relaxed conversation between Dr. King and Merv Griffin. Dr. King reflects on the political context in Atlanta, which he called the most progressive city in the South—and the opportunities it afforded for progress for civil rights. Toward the end, Dr. King reflects on the progress to date in civil rights.
January 17, 2014
“We have to rid ourselves of the notion that innovation relies on the genius of an individual. We produce and innovate together only in networks.”
– Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire
This is our second post about the Social Justice Funders Network. Read the previous post here.
- How might women of color working in philanthropy support each other in nurturing our radical selves?
- How might funders advance racial justice and racial equity conversations in our philanthropic institutions in order to inform our practice?
- What is the appropriate role for foundations in support of movements and movement building?
- How might we be stronger allies to and supporters of youth organizing?
January 2, 2014
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 approaches to (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
December 12, 2013
Over the past five years or so of supporting self-declared “networks” for change, I have evolved in my understanding of what is new when we call something a network, versus a coalition or collaborative or alliance. On the surface, much can look the same, and one might also say that coalitions, collaboratives and alliances are simply different forms of networks. Yes, and . . . I believe that what can make a big difference is when participants in a network (or an organization, for that matter) embrace new ways of seeing, thinking, and doing. So let me propose that network approaches at their best call on us to lead with some of the following: Read More
December 11, 2013
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 points below that resonate with our experiences at IISC around supporting organizational networks for social change. My comments and extensions are in italics: Read More
November 11, 2013
What we now know as Veterans Day began as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, commemorating the end of “The War to End All Wars.” Sadly, World War I paved the way and was quickly followed by World War II. And countless lives have been lost in wars since. Sara Robinson’s description of the relationship between Remembrance Day and pacifism in Canada struck me as a powerful reminder on this Veteran’s Day. Here’s an excerpt from a longer post.
October 23, 2013
I saw “Gravity” last night. It was a fun thriller, relatively formulaic; and yet, also of great importance. It is significant that “Gravity” has been the top seller at the box office three weekends in a row.
September 25, 2013
September 23, 2013
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
Several persistent questions keep us learning and experimenting.
How do we avoid re-traumatizing people of color in this work? Often, people of color in racially mixed learning spaces bear the burden of teaching through telling their own stories. While sometimes liberating, this can also re-open wounds and create resentment at having to prove one’s reality to people who may be reluctant to accept what they have not experienced. And, over time, it can be disheartening to keep extending grace to different people in different spaces for the same mistakes. Racially homogeneous caucuses are one useful antidote. How else can we avoid these dynamics, particularly working in mixed-race settings?