Category Archives: Network Weaving

Network Weaving

Accessing the Advice of Your Peers

These one-time events are an opportunity to get practical and imaginative help from network members immediately. It’s perfect for people tackling a challenge or new project to get a bit of insight from peers who have useful perspectives or who have done the same thing before. Each event has an “assistee” who shares a challenge, a “facilitator” who keeps the process on track and on time, and 6-9 “peers” who share their thoughts.

They tend to be most beneficial when the assistee has a clear purpose and can clearly articulate that to participants. What decision do you face?

I’ve been using peer assists both with local peers, as we support one another through our network-building challenges and with NEWHAB. I’ve found multiple benefits, beyond helping people find new solutions in their work.

  • It’s an accessible way for people to practice network skills like listening and seeing everyone as a leader.
  • Peers report gaining new insight of their own.
  • All participants build relationships with one another.
  • And all participants give something — a challenge, some time, some ideas — starting an economy of intellectual reciprocity in the network.

Here’s the instruction guide I prepared for a one-hour activity I led with a group of peers. Check out the great video above from the University of Ottowa’s Center for e-Learning.

How have you used a peer-assist? How would you change the guide?

Facilitation Network Weaving

Surprise! I Love Failure

As we design our new network, I’m very focused on learning. I’m reading books, reading blogs, asking friends, piloting ideas on groups where I volunteer, hiring a coach, and discussing challenges with colleagues.

Because we are inventing something new, I also want to learn from what we do. I’m encouraging activities that move our work forward, using structures that have short cycles so we can iterate and continually improve how we collaborate. To learn from and improve on every iteration, we need to instill a habit of reflection with everything we do.

For the last year, we’ve had “work groups.” The first ones didn’t go so well, so when they ended after a few months, I reflected on the challenges they’d had and redesigned for work groups 2.0 This round went much better.

I also requested an explicit reflection conversation at the end the second round, a half-hour conversation with each set of co-conveners. You can see some of their very rich reflections in this earlier post.

There was one surprise bonus I hadn’t expected from these conversations.

Creative Commons License, credit OtakuAnna

 

While I was very pleased with how the groups had gone, it seemed a few co-conveners felt they hadn’t lived up to their commitments. As the conversations began, regret or apologies rolled quickly off of tongues. The tone changed when I asked them to name what they were most proud of, list what had worked well, offer tips for others who would follow, and advise me on how I could better set up leaders.

After they named things like successful webinars, they offered something really valuable: what they had learned. What started out feeling like going to confession turned into contributing to NEWHAB’s success.

Sure, the content of the conversations will make the 3.0 version even more successful. But to my surprise, the most valuable lesson from these conversations is that taking time to learn from whatever happened transforms (perceived) failure into an important contribution to the network. People feel good leaving that conversation. And that’s a good place to begin building a network.

Facilitation Network Design Network Weaving

I Asked a few Questions; Wisdom Appeared

Lessons Learned

Credit: Kathy Choh of Management HQ

As we develop NEWHAB, we’re using short cycles of doing followed by reflection to quickly try out strategies and either make them better or decide they aren’t the right ones for us. Six months ago, we started our second round of “work groups,” having learned from some struggles on the first set.

When I solicited co-conveners then, I shared a summary of expectations:

  • approximately monthly work sessions with work group members,
  • share agendas for work group calls prior to meetings,
  • share notes, relevant information, and deliverables from work group sessions,
  • identify specific outcomes or deliverables for the work group (shaped by co-conveners in partnership with the work group) in the first month,
  • in the sixth month, suggest possible next steps for the conveners who will follow you and sharing useful information with them.

At the end of the six months, to reinforce the importance of reflection and learning from experience, I also asked each pair of co-leads to do a short phone call with me. I had a short list of questions.

  1. What was the most useful thing I did to help set up your group?
  2. What is your most proud outcome?
  3. What have you learned? What tips would you share with future group co-conveners?
  4. What could we (the network supporters) have done differently to be more helpful?

The conversations were wonderfully rich — and offered bonuses beyond the learning (I’ll share more about those in a future post). There were four big themes that emerged in all the conversations. read more »

Network Weaving Vocation

Well, Here’s How *I* Pay Rent with my Anthro Major

An urban anthropologist at work.

An urban anthropologist at work: may include testifying on urban issues for City Government.

 

I identify as an anthropologist, among other things. Anyone who ever studied anthropology, me included, needs an answer to, “What job can you get with an anthro major?” In jokes about useless majors, it ranks up there with art and philosophy. In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott took on the whole discipline, noting, “We don’t need them here.

Amy Santee, another applied anthropologist, writes about just this question on her blog, Anthropologizing. She has a series of posts titled, “Anthropologists in Practice.” I was pleased for the chance to reflect more on my anthropology training — and to answer the question of how I use an anthropology major to pay my rent — when she invited me to do an interview for the series.

Facilitation Network Weaving

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!)

read more »

Network Weaving

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?

read more »

Facilitation Network Weaving

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. read more »

Facilitation Network Weaving

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

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 Design Network Weaving

Structuring Chaos to Create Action

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

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 »