Tag Archives: network design

Network Weaving

Network Thinking Partner: In Interview by Beth Tener

This is cross-posted from Beth Tener’s blog.

Since 2014, Beth and I have had the pleasure of working together. She’s my coach/thinking partner supporting me in my role as a Network Weaver for a new national network, called Network for Water, Energy and Health in Affordable Buildings (NEWHAB.) Her consulting practice is New Directions Collaborative. She recently interviewed me as an opportunity to reflect on what I have learned and the value that the thinking partner role has for network leaders. Our work together is done through a video Skype every couple of weeks, plus she reviews documents, and connects me to resources, ideas, or people who could be helpful.

For background, what is the network you are working with and your role?

A lot of work is being done across the country to improve energy and water efficiency and health in existing apartment buildings. Partners involved saw the need for the energy and housing sectors to learn from one another and share learning across geographies to avoid working at cross purposes and to advocate at a larger scale. I was retained early on as a consultant facilitating development of a new national network focused on “collaboration between energy efficiency and affordable housing professionals in existing, multifamily housing occupied by low-income households…” That network has evolved into the Network for Energy, Water, and Health in Affordable Buildings (NEWHAB) and I now serve in the role of Network Weaver, with one other staff person who is a Network Administrator. read more »

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.

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 »