The Edges of and Gaps in Network Development

January 6, 2017 Leave a comment


I along with some other colleagues was recently approached by a networks researcher and thought leader about any emerging lessons and what we perceive to be current gaps in the “networks for social change” field around knowledge and practice. We were also invited to share any blog posts that speak to these lessons and growing edges. Below is the gist of the response that I sent, and I am curious to hear any reactions, extensions, etc.

Below are links to three blog posts that I would say speak to the growing edges in my own thinking and what I am seeing as important considerations for the field going forward. To summarize, these all have to do with how to get at deeper systemic change purpose and potential (which is not always the presenting purpose or initially perceived potential when networks form), and related to that, surfacing and working with issues of power, privilege and identity

In addition, there is a very fundamental question of capacity, related to the fact that so many of the networks include already busy people, who essentially are being asked to work a couple of jobs. This clearly has its limits, and in part speaks to the need, I think, of helping these networks really begin to shift and reshape existing institutions and ways of doing things (getting to steps 2 and 3 in the horizon map below). This is is what stands behind much of my own personal interest in helping people understand and embrace “regenerative development” mindsets, practices and structures. 

3h_mapping_overviewI also think that as part of these questions of sustainability, it is important to keep eyes focused on the reasons for which people engage in network development in the first place (getting around and beyond insufficient, inhibiting and dehumanizing organizational structures), and not fall victim to tending to the raft and forgetting about the shore (lapsing into fetishizing new structures).

There is also an ongoing call to be open to being changed by the (net) work, to seeing ourselves and our relationship to and within systems in a different light.

For more along these lines, check out these previous posts:

Peeling Away Layers for Impact in Social Change Networks

Equitable Networks: Freeing and Connecting Knowledge and People

Deepening Network Practice for Social Change

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