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!)

Earlier this week, I was one of seven people (with Michael Bischoff as ringleader) who invited Network Weavers to gather at the new Minnesota Social Impact Center. More than 20 people came. We are working on issues from arts to energy issues, at scales from along a specific transit line to national, with leadership from Asian and Native communities, with constituencies as varied as kids to organizers of color, and in roles as volunteers and consultants. We’ll be reconvening in March and in April.

Offerings (credit: Eugene Kim)

Offerings (credit: Eugene Kim)

At one, we made offerings as we introduced ourselves and used a fishbowl discussion where people jumped in and out asking me questions. At the other I offered a five-minute “What is Network Weaving” talk. Then we did a round robin of directed introductions where we were “required” to dance if the introduction timer sounded the 45-second a dance music alarm — which of course devolved into laughter. Then, we mingled informally.

Neither was heavily planned — Eugene and Michael just sent an invitation and gave us a tiny structure to learn about one another, and we ran with it. At both, people hung around long after the activities finished, connecting around shared interests. I left both gatherings with new connections that will help me in my own work supporting NEWHAB.

The lesson? Just get something on the calendar, give everyone a way to reveal a little about their interests, and then step back and watch valuable connections materialize out of thin air.


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