Monthly Archives: September 2013

Facilitation Network Weaving

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

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