Uncategorized

What is Flisrand Consulting? What is Flisrand Consulting?

Flisrand Consulting connects people, places and ideas through smart process.

Smart process begins by working with you to clarify the project goal, define the steps to achieve it, and make it happen.  We provide additional value by connecting your goals with our expertise in engagement and collaborative coordination, and broad network. One of our key strategies is network weaving, the practice of intentionally building effective relationships around a common issue area.

The result may be a well-facilitated meeting, workshop, event, or initiative.  The process may lead to a written product like a white paper, handbook, or summary of best practices.  It may simply be a review of your company’s plan to increase cycling and transit commuting by your employees, or marketing materials that earn your company credit for the sustainability work you do.

Musings

Communication Facilitation

Seeding Good Network Habits Seeding Good Network Habits

Supporting networks, or volunteers, or project teams, I find it’s critical to teach people how to use the tools we have effectively. I try to sneak tips into e-mails and to model good habits — hard when you’re in a hurry!

I’ve been leaning on Kathy Choh of Management HQ to help me with this. She provides admin support to NEWHAB. Today I’m sharing the tips we co-wrote last week. This one focused on effectively contributing to and getting the most out of NEWHAB’s Google Group.

Janne & Kathy

Janne & Kathy

 


This is a good introduction to how we use the Google Group if you are brand new to the group, and a helpful reminder if have been a part of NEWHAB since before it had a name.

First, the purpose of this Google Group. This is our main communication tool for the Network for Energy, Water and Health in Affordable Housing.

FRIENDLY WARNING: There are well over 100 people who receive these e-mails, so please be respectful of others e-mail inboxes when you broadcast to everyone.

OPPORTUNITY: There are over 100 experts who receive these e-mails, who want to know what is going on and connect with NEWHAB, so please take advantage of this list to share and solicit expertise as well as to connect with one another.

Tips:

1.)    Am I responding simply to acknowledge an e-mail?

  • No  Stop, send a personal e-mail.
  • Yes Go to #2.

2.)    Is this message relevant to many group members?

  • No → Stop, send a personal e-mail.
  • Yes Go to #3.

3.)    Is this a valuable learning opportunity that relates to [the theme of this network]?

  • No → Stop.
  • Yes Send it!

4.)    Is this report or update helpful to people driving the change we want to see?

  • No → Stop.
  • Yes Send it!

5.)    Am I seeking insight or information on a specific technical issue related to[the theme of this network]?

  • No → Stop.
  • Yes Send it!

6.)    Will this information help other network members learn ways to go beyond their current success?

  • No → Stop.
  • Yes Send it!

7.)    Is this a specific opportunity for other network members to get involved in relevant work?

  • No → Stop.
  • Yes Send it!

8.)    Is this an opportunity for other network members to connect with one another?

  • No → Stop.
  • Yes Send it!

[Instructions on how to post to the group.] Remember to use your work e-mail address so people have a sense of your background.

Inviting Question: What are you working on that offers value to or accesses the expertise of network members?

 

Facilitation Network Weaving

Just Get Together, Already! Just Get Together, Already!

Credit: Minnesota Social Impact Center

Gathering in Minneapolis (Credit: Minnesota Social Impact Center)

Something I love about networked working is that it’s enough to Just Do Something. Almost anything. Preferably in person.

It’s human to want to plan things out, to get them right. It’s so easy to wait until we have time to do it right to do anything.

Luckily, there are plenty of examples around of just jumping in and doing something together and then seeing the value of connecting emerge when people meet. Those examples inspire me, and they remind me to just schedule something.

In the last three weeks, I’ve been a participant in two gatherings of people leading collaborative networks. They were totally different events. In San Francisco, extending an invitation for coffee or a drink to Eugene Kim transformed into an excuse to convene  15 people, drawn by a pitch that “Janne’s going to talk some about her work and her interests.” (A more prominent role than I’d expected, and I got great ideas in exchange for being willing to serve as case study!)

Earlier this week, I was one of seven people (with Michael Bischoff as ringleader) who invited Network Weavers to gather at the new Minnesota Social Impact Center. More than 20 people came. We are working on issues from arts to energy issues, at scales from along a specific transit line to national, with leadership from Asian and Native communities, with constituencies as varied as kids to organizers of color, and in roles as volunteers and consultants. We’ll be reconvening in March and in April.

Offerings (credit: Eugene Kim)

Offerings (credit: Eugene Kim)

At one, we made offerings as we introduced ourselves and used a fishbowl discussion where people jumped in and out asking me questions. At the other I offered a five-minute “What is Network Weaving” talk. Then we did a round robin of directed introductions where we were “required” to dance if the introduction timer sounded the 45-second a dance music alarm — which of course devolved into laughter. Then, we mingled informally.

Neither was heavily planned — Eugene and Michael just sent an invitation and gave us a tiny structure to learn about one another, and we ran with it. At both, people hung around long after the activities finished, connecting around shared interests. I left both gatherings with new connections that will help me in my own work supporting NEWHAB.

The lesson? Just get something on the calendar, give everyone a way to reveal a little about their interests, and then step back and watch valuable connections materialize out of thin air.

 

Network Weaving

Finding your Network’s Purpose Finding your Network’s Purpose

Stating your purpose is like navigating to your destination

I am in the middle of designing multiple networks this winter. With the Network for Energy, Water, and Health in Affordable Buildings (NEWHAB), we’ve been wrestling with how to highlight that resident quality of life is a key motivator, to recognize health benefits, and to be clear about the focus on affordable housing without readers getting stuck in preconceived notions of “affordable housing.”

Last week, a small team of people got together to try and finalize a purpose for our network. We relied on guidance from Connecting to Change the World: Harnessing the Power of Networks for Social Impact, a new book by Peter Plastrik, Madeleine Taylor, and John Cleveland.

In their chapter on Network Design, they recommend a purpose statement include three things:

  1. Who is this network for?
  2. What problem is it working on?
  3. What type of collaborative activities will the network undertake?

With the NEWHAB leaders, this framework helped us shift from a long, run-on draft purpose statement to something much clearer. Yesterday in a much less ambitious setting, it was just what we needed to get to this draft purpose statement:

[network name] connects passionate people with a positive vision for Minneapolis as a city. Together, we explore and build awareness of city-wide issues and campaign for specific projects or policies to achieve that future as Minneapolis changes.

Tell me — do you know what this network is about and who it welcomes? What questions do you have?

Facilitation Network Weaving

Using Events to Close Triangles Using Events to Close Triangles

I’m supporting an emerging network, one focused on energy efficiency, water, and health in affordable apartment buildings. Recently, we had our first big in-person gathering of network participants. Because networks consist of personal relationships, we incorporated connecting activities.

The Closing Triangles Drawing, an idea I got from Beth Tener, was the run-away favorite.

First, a 101 on Closing Triangles. A network weaver closes a triangle by introducing two unconnected people. This is valuable when those two people gain mutual benefit from knowing one another. Skilled network weavers share the value of the introduction, and even name the small first step to take. You can read more here, or here.

We wove the Closing Triangles Drawing throughout our event. My goal was to create two network norms:

  1. Mutual curiosity about our work, assets and needs
  2. An expectation everyone makes connections

We began by explaining the concept of closing triangles with stories of meaningfully connecting people in the room.

Stories of Making Triangles

Stories of Making Triangles

We placed forms to enter the drawing in registration packets. The forms required the name of the connector and the two connected people – and prompted people to name what made the connection meaningful.

Closing Triangles Drawing Entry Form

Closing Triangles Drawing Entry Form

Then, we drew names for prizes (books on network themes) several times throughout the convening.

By the time we got to the evening happy hour, making connections had become a competitive sport, and by the time we got to the end of the event, we had a vase full of entry slips so everyone could see the connections.

DrawingEntries

Drawing Entries

The post-convening evaluation highlighted our success. Not only did respondents report hundreds of connections they planned to maintain after the event, multiple people listed the Closing Triangles Drawing as their favorite part of the convening.

 

Beth Tener, who suggested this idea, has cross-posted this one her New Directions Collaborative blog.

Facilitation Network Weaving

How “Thank Yous” Build a Network How “Thank Yous” Build a Network

I often talk & write about building trust within the networks. Today, I want to take a few minutes to tell you one Thanksgiving-themed thing I’m doing to increase the level of trust in my corner of the world, and I invite you to take five minutes to do it, too.

 

As I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving, I’m thinking about my mom’s training in writing thank you notes (as well as her stuffing). I’m also remembering the out-of-the-blue thank you note I got from an neighborhood acquaintance, Erik, couple months ago.

That note from Erik did two things.

First, it made my day! I had been doing my advocacy thing feeling pretty much on my own, behind the scenes for a couple of years. I was happy to do it, but figured it was invisible to the world. Knowing that someone who I hadn’t talked to for three years had noticed it, appreciated it, and bothered to send me a note made me feel a lot less alone in that work.

Second, I felt closer to Erik. We hadn’t spoken in years, and had never been close friends or colleagues. Despite that, simply by telling me thank you, I suddenly felt like I could call him up and ask him a small favor, or ask his advice. I trusted him more.

 

Remembering that experience, I’m sending personal (email) thank you notes to a few network colleagues, sharing specific things I have noticed and appreciated as we build our connections.

 

Thank you!

Network Weaving Vocation

Co-Files and Pollen Co-Files and Pollen

Image credit Marie Ketring

Image credit Marie Ketring

I’m honored to have been featured by Pollen in their latest profiles of CoCo members, Co-Files: Part iii.

 

“So that’s my thing:  pulling different elements together and helping them work as a unit in a really smart way.”

 

You’ll have to scroll down a bit through the profiles to fine me, but if you do you’ll see how I describe Network Weaving in an informal conversation/interview.

 

 

Facilitation Network Weaving

Structuring Chaos to Create Action Structuring Chaos to Create Action

Volunteers got 100 people out biking in THIS!

Novice volunteers got 100 people to Bikes and Brewvies – despite snow

All-volunteer organizations are tough.  There is often a small core of volunteers ABSOLUTELY committed to the project, wanting help, and wondering where the help is.  That certainly applied (and still applies) to the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition where I volunteer.

We’re working to engage more people, and we ARE engaging lots more people.  Of course, with more people we are more ambitious so we still want more help.

Last winter, the Coalition wanted to organize more events — rides, happy hours, tabling — places where we could connect with new people and engage potential supporters and members in new ways.  Of course, none of our existing volunteers had the time to make things happen, so I decided to try and Make Something Happen. read more »

Uncategorized

Matching Resources and Needs Matching Resources and Needs

Yesterday, I had the honor of facilitating “Building the Alliance — An Interactive Workshop Weaving our Alliance Network” with Kristin Johnstad of Johnstad and Associates, with planning help from Clarity Facilitation.

Alliance Members Connecting

Alliance Members Connecting (image credit JM Grants)

We started the 75 minutes by highlighting some of the core principles of Network Weaving (closing triangles, listening to understand, and doing small things as a way to build networks out of what seems to be chaos).  To make it very practical, most of our time was spent doing an interactive game where people identified resources they had to offer, things that they needed to do their work, and then looking for matches.

As a rough tally, I’d guess the group made around 75 specific, practical connections they said they planned to follow up on after the session.  Whether they all do or not, people connected, had fun, and walked away with a better understanding of Network Weaving.

Facilitation Network Weaving

How Spaces Matter How Spaces Matter

Working at CoCo, photo credit Negstad Consulting

Working at CoCo, photo credit Negstad Consulting

There are many reasons I recently partnered up with Lisa Negstad to get a full-time office space at CoCo Minneapolis.

High on that list is that the space gives me excuses to expand my professional network.  That’s possible because it feels good – both physically and socially.

The way the physical space feels makes me (and hundreds of other people) want to be here.  You can see the soaring ceilings, the beauty, the brightness from big windows, and the openness of the space.  The umbrellas show that they’ve thought hard about how to define space — to make it feel somewhere — while maintaining the openness.  The permanent spaces where I now sit have semi-transparent dividers that encourage you to not bother but also get to know your neighbors. Maybe they read Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building and Newman’s Defensible Space?

It’s harder to see the social space in the picture, but there are hints. The physical set-up encourages people to meet at the reception/waiting area/central coffee station. The clear delineation of quiet and social work spaces ensures that people who want to focus have a place to do that — and gives those who want to interact permission to strike up a conversation when facing strangers across your desk. There are some informal social events (Beer ‘n’ Chat Tuesday afternoons), and slightly more formal lunches or launch events to encourage mixing with just enough structure that it’s OK for the introverts.  There’s even an internal online social network for the screen-focused.

The lessons here translate to public spaces and to network weaving.

  • How do you make physical and social spaces places people want to be?
  • What strategies make them welcoming and comfortable to everyone, regardless of personality, interest, gender, race, etc.?
  • How do you allow enough excuses for serendipity and interactions to happen AND enough
    invisibility” for people to feel comfortable?

When it’s done right, wonderful things emerge from controlled chaos.

Network Weaving

It’s About People It’s About People

Janne

In preparing to introduce myself on the NetworkWeaver blog, I have been reflecting on where I’ve been weaving networks throughout my past work.

There are a few threads throughout my work. My anthropology training shows through with my focus on inclusiveness when defining stakeholders, especially those folks who frequently find themselves on the edges or outside.  Designing an affordable housing project?  I might ask if you got input from the people on the maintenance and janitorial staff. I’m passionate about finding accessible ways to engage.  Today I came across this post about expanding the voices heard  when making local decisions.  Jay highlighted inaccessibility as a challenge of our engagement traditions — and proposed some approaches more accessible to people:

Much of local politics revolves around meetings—what if we found the resources to put those meetings online, to post transcripts and live-tweets? What if there was opportunity for real-time online comment?

Working on a project, I listen to find the unique gifts each person brings, sometimes using that gift to bring them into the project.  Recently I struck up a conversation with someone in my coworking office, discovered he liked to bike and he produces videos.  A few minutes later, he had agreed to produce a video for the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. Finally, I don’t want to do things, I want to help others learn to do things.  I’m happy to facilitate a meeting, but I’d rather create and test a meeting facilitation template with you, to build capacity in other people. Inviting people in, making it easy for them to participate, using their gifts meaningfully, helping people grow.  Network weaving is about people.

Note:  cross-posted at http://www.networkweaver.com/?p=379