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 listing 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.


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.


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 »


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


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


Network Weaving – Accomplish More, Do Less Network Weaving – Accomplish More, Do Less

Network Weaver Handbook

Network Weaver Handbook

For the last nine months, I’ve been exploring a new way of thinking about what I do.  That’s when I went to a workshop on Newtork Weaving, an introduction session to the concept.  I immediately saw ways it could support my work with the Alliance for Healthy Homes and Communities (through Minnesota Green Communities), as well as with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.

The basic concept is that by

  1. effectively engaging networks of people who
  2. share one or more common goals and
  3. all bring different resources and skills

you can accomplish more, but do less.  There’s more detail on how to do that, of course.  It includes creating the right sort of common culture, comfort with a lack of centralized control, recognizing both the strengths and weaknesses of people and working with them, and filing in gaps in the network.

Based in social network theory, June Holley has put together a set of writings, tools, activities, and worksheets to turn that theory into something easily used by people who want to do specific things.

I participated in a 5 month intensive practicum on network consulting led by June Holley and Kristin Johnstad, and will be posting more about how I’m translating that learning into action.  I’ve signed up for the Network Weaver consultant team, too. I’m primarily focused on engaging stakeholders, and am using micro-grants, mapping, and specific activities you can weave into regular meetings to build a network-weaving-friendly culture.

In the mean time, you can learn a bit more by watching this video.




Why Anthropology? Why Anthropology?

While I’m trained as an applied anthropologists, mostly my work is around green building work.  So when one of my green building newsletters came with an article heading, “Anthropologist on the Design Team: The Making of An Unangan Home,” I took notice.

Mostly, we anthropologists “pass,” with job titles hat don’t reveal our training.  I find that sharing my training aloud results in finding a lot more anthropologists out there than I would ever have imagined.

Anyway, in this example, a green building competition was organized around designing for a remote Aleutian Island site.  Most of the residents of the specific village are Unangan native people.  By luck, one of the design team members brought an anthropologist who had worked in Alaska, and the post tells an entertaining story of how her involvement dispelled a number of inaccurate assumptions and facilitated the residents thoughts on their own housing needs.

The team turned out a pretty cool housing design, too.


Supervising without Authority? Supervising without Authority?


Clown in Figi - by petersbar on Flickr Used under Creative Commons, Some rights reserved

Clown in Fiji — an example of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Last weekend, someone mentioned how difficult it is to supervise people if you don’t have the authority to impose consequences when they don’t their job.

That reminded me how I often work in settings where I’m accountable for making things happen, but I don’t have any formal authority. I facilitate collaborative initiatives, or write white papers, or manage volunteers.

This lack of authority has never bothered me. My inner Minnesotan would much rather rely on softer tools to make things happen. And the part of me that reads scientific research knows that authority is the last-ditch attempt to motivate someone, and almost any other approach is more effective.

I start by helping people see the self-interest in taking on something that beyond their normal “job.” If you get cited as an expert in a research paper, or if you both want a policy change, or if you get to learn new skills while expanding your professional network, you just might sign on.

Of course, being willing to help out with a project doesn’t always reach to the smaller details of getting things done. Someone needs to set an agenda, someone needs to make those follow-up phone calls, someone needs to draft the proposal. For that sort of thing, it’s all about the relationship, and more basic psychology.

People often do things because they want to maintain a relationship. You like or respect one another, and you don’t want to lose that. You know there may be referrals sometime in the future. So after someone signs on, I often start building a relationship — lunch or coffee, a chance to talk about the shared work, and hopefully an opportunity to find something in common or learn about one of their passions.

That relationship is part of the psychology; we like to reciprocate and to do things for people we like. Getting a verbal commitments to do something helps — we like to think of ourselves the kind of person who keeps a promise. So clear expectations go a long way. I’ve found asking people personally and directly to… draft and send out the agenda by a specific date… or call so-and-so before Tuesday… or whatever specific task by whatever date is likely to get you a yes, especially if there’s a relationship. You may need to send a reminder, but it’s likely to get done once there is a commitment.

One last pro tip. Remember to say thank you often, privately and publicly.