Published by Angus on 08 Sep 2009 at 05:30 am
All communities can be summed up as people who know each other and do things together. As a general rule, know more people in their community, both they and their communities are more productive. So how do we go about increasing those connections between people? Increasingly, community leaders are turning to ‘Network Weavers’.
What are network weavers?
Jach Ricchuito defines Network Weavers as “people who intentionally and informally weave new and richer connections between and among people, groups, and entities in networks”. Think of them as community organizers who understand something about social networks mapping and analysis.
Who make the best weavers?
Again according to Jach Ricchuito “Network weaving only requires five things: intention, time, curiosity, the ability to make quality introductions, and a good connection with those they’re connecting“. But if you look at June Holley nice list of characteristics for good network weavers, you could say that they are part networker, part coach, and part strategist.
What do network weavers do?
Communities often evolve along predictable pathways from fragmented clusters of people interested in a concept, to a single hub-and-spoke when a leader pulls the clusters together, to multiple hubs where a variety of people take responsibility, and finally to a core/periphery with a tight ball of members surrounded by interested hangers on. Network weaving can accelerate this growth process. (For how to interpret these maps below read this)
Graphic based on Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving by Valdis Krebs and June Holley
Network Weavers might do different things depending on which stage they are brought in. At the fragmented cluster stage, it is a question of finding people interested in building the community, those with similar goals and objectives. Reaching out to recognized community leaders who have a finger on the broader pulse would be a good start, followed by interviews, focus groups, and an initial convening. At the Single-Hub stage, social network mapping could reveal strengths and weaknesses and help identify a community’s emerging self-appointed network weavers. At the Multi-Hub stage, network weavers mightwould focus on building trust and helping to articulate the community’s identity and value proposition. Conflict resolution through facilitated meetings might be necessary. Finally, at the Core/Periphery stage, Network Weavers become less critical but they still might be needed to build bridges to the outside and bring new resources in. For a more detailed look at suggested interventions look at What network stage is your community?
A more general list of actions that a weaver might take is below:
- Learn about the resources in the network – people and group’s available time, expertise, funding etc
- Know the goals and visions of people in the network well enough to spot and create opportunities for collaboration
- Constantly introduce and connect people with complementary dreams and assets
- Share information and resources without expectation of a direct return from that person
- Recruit new resources to the network depending on needs
- Help people map and analyze their network and come up with recommendations
- Help people deal with differences and conflict so they can work together
- Teach others to take on network weaving responsibilities
Measuring the impact of network weaving on your community is hard to do. Collecting stories and anecdotes can go a long way but one of the more definitive ways is to conduct pre and post Social Network Mapping. Some networks have hired multiple weavers to share the burden and kept weavers on the payroll for several years. Weaving is generally not a short term process since it takes someone getting to know a community and foster meaningful introductions.
WiserEarth is itself about to conduct a network weaving effort. We plan to identify issue areas (AOFs) with high levels of participation, map the network of people and groups focusing on those areas, identify fragmented parts of the network, and weave the community more tightly together. If you would like to get involved in this effort please let me know.
Case study: Boston Green and Healthy Buildings Network An effort to weave a network among 10 Boston nonprofits, highlighting the challenges and lessons learned. (By Beth Tener, Al Nierenberg, and Bruce Hoppe in 2008.)
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