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?