Tag Archive: network building

April 2, 2010

Elephants, Riders, and Networks


|Photo by Robert Nyman|http://www.flickr.com/photos/robertnyman/189668104|

On Wednesday, IISC hosted an impressive group of network building practitioners to discuss what we have collectively learned and have yet to discover about building networks for social change. Melinda and I tweeted ourselves silly with participants’ insights (which you can find by searching hashtag #NTWK). While there is still so much to sort through and have sink in, one of our small group break out sessions got me thinking about how we can preach the potential of networks without turning folk away. As we talked, some pieces began to fall into place in part with the help of the work of Chip and Dan Heath.

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November 17, 2009

Critical Yeast

My friend Arthur Romano does a very good job talking about John Paul Lederach’s concept of “critical yeast.”  We at the Interaction Institute for Social Change have been deeply influenced by Lederach’s book The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace.  Our network-building work is informed by this idea that since we are connected in networks, it is in fact possible for what seems like a tiny minority to significantly affect the whole.

I am appreciative of Arthur reminding us that this age of connectivity significantly enhances our potential to be that critical yeast.  He is very clear that the hard work of building authentic relationships is as important as ever – there are no short cuts in this work, but there are more powerful frames.

October 20, 2009

The Unconference

I’m writing from the Opportunity Collaboration, and anti-poverty convening in Ixtapa, Mexico.  It has been quite an experience and while we are working with powerful content, I want to write about process.  This has not been a conference!  About 260 delegates have been convened in a beautiful resort to tackle the problem of poverty from a relatively diverse set of approaches and outlooks, ranging from philanthropy to micro-finance, nonprofits and other social ventures.

Groups of 20 delegates come together 2 hours each morning in what has been titled the Colloquium for the Common Good.  This is the common conversation we are having throughout the convening as we are invited to reflect on our values and why we do this work.  I have been honored to serve as facilitator for one of these groups and I am quite impressed by the depth of our conversations.

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August 11, 2009

Network and Community

As I prepare for my work with the Young People’s Project, I’ve been re-reading Building Community in Place. It is one of my favorite pieces by Bill Traynor of Lawrence Community Works. YPP has engaged Root Cause in a a rigorous Business Planning Process that is meant to take the organization to the next level. And IISC has been asked to partner with Root Cause and assist with the network-builiding aspects of the process.

As I prepare for what I’m sure will be a challenging and exciting process, I look back on Bill’s insights on network building (thankfully, LCW is an organizational partner in this process!) and his following quote really stands out:

“A network is best understood as an environment of connectivity rather than an organization in the traditional sense. At its best, it is an environment that is value driven and self-generating, where control and decision-making is dispersed and where being ‘well connected’ is the optimal state for any participant. Networks are established in order to create efficiency and optimum value for its participants – with only as much infrastructure as is needed to create effective connectivity. Read More

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June 23, 2009

The Barr Fellows

I knew a few Barr Fellows before I started doing the kind of work I do today. I knew a few of them before they were Barr Fellows, and so I also knew them after. It was in this nonscientific way that I was able to observe some of the subtle and not so subtle shifts that were happening among my friends – the fellowship had an effect on them and on their work. Conceptually, the idea behind the fellowship was something that I could understand, network theory and the power of relationships already made intuitive sense to me.

Check out the Barr Fellows Program for a formal description of the effort. But to risk oversimplification, the fellowship is about taking a diverse group of amazing leaders in Boston’s social sector, rewarding them with a sabbatical, connecting them to one another and exposing them to social innovation in other parts of the world.

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June 2, 2009

Draw It Out

“The explosion of creativity in the Renaissance was intimately tied to the recording and conveying of a vast body of knowledge in a parallel language: a language of drawings, diagrams, and graphs-as, for instance in the renowned diagrams and sketches of Galileo.”

-Michael Michalko, Cracking Creativity

So I’m not Galileo, but there is something very powerful about the use of images in seeking a common language to work with complexity. Check out the set of drawings we used in a recent learning meeting. We are trying to understand the relationship between advocacy coalitions, local groups, the State, and investing in Network Building capacity. Can you put the story together?