Dec. 1 Webinar: Live Participant Case on Building Peer Networks, with Adene Sacks from the Jim Joseph Foundation

Overview: The case is about building peer networks for identity formation, peer support, and learning with Adene Sacks from the Jim Joseph Foundation

Conversation Highlights:

Click here to see Adene Sack's notes from the conversation

Participants were asked to share top of mind thoughts or questions:
  • Role definition: How much guidance to offer a network at a challenging transition point? How much to guide them as they figure out next steps?
  • How do I balance providing my outside perspectives and insights with allowing them to figure things out on their own?
  • Where to begin when introducing network strategies to groups unfamiliar with this space?
  • What should our organization’s network effectiveness priorities be for next year?
  • How to inject energy, innovation, and new leadership into longstanding networks?
  • How can we develop new directions in a networked way, reaching beyond the people we already know to challenge our own thinking?
  • We have been seeking proposals for network grants and working with grantees to explore this, but received collaborative proposals instead. To what extent do we attempt to influence this / work with them to refine this?

During the peer assist the following questions were addressed:
  • Is a strategy focused on convening organizations to discuss their vision and solicit proposals of what they could do together the right cut in point?
  • What is the potential for using evaluation as a bridge, to get similar grantees to measure the same outcomes . What impact will more standard metrics / evaluation have on member collaboration and the effectiveness of networks on the ground?
  • Does paying people to network work?
  • What experience have others had using shared online spaces as platforms for collaboration?

Following are the group's responses to these questions:

Ideas for helping to connect / convene stakeholders included:
  • Map existing relationships.
  • Inquire into /understand their visions of working together to understand common interests.
  • Understand the organizational cultures and determine if there are there things that make them antithetical to each other.
  • Create “twosies”: Instead of trying to get everyone to buy in on collaborative approaches, small pairings of likeminded organizations can also be impactful.

With regard to using common metrics as a bridge, participants suggested that:
  • The value of this will be much higher if other funders of these organizations are also involved, and can promise to accept similar reports at similar times.
  • Create a common vision first of what the desired end goal looks like, to establish commonality even if the approaches are different.

Does paying people to network work?
  • Many organizations have tried this, particularly in providing funding for convening, facilitators, a secretariat, etc.. Experiences varied:
    • In some cases it didn't result in meaningful network participation
    • For others this has worked well, particularly the provision of a facilitator. Once the network and patterns are in place and connections are brokered, networks can then be more self-sufficient

What experience have others had using shared online spaces as platforms for collaboration?
  • Google groups: Used for policy network. Group agreed to enter notes / information after each external policy discussion for the benefit of the group.
  • Google calendar: Adding peoples’ email addresses into meetings so that they get automatic reminders from google rather than the convener.
  • Customized online platform: Proved too complicated.
  • Ning: Easier to use, and somewhat better utilized, but ultimately individuals preferred connecting via phone / email

Post-Webinar Reflections:
What are you taking away? Post your top of mind reflection after our conversation. Please include your name.

  • Marie Sauter: The conversation reinforced for me the importance of taking time to build trust in order to facilitate development of a shared vision. Without sufficient trust, it can be challenging to get participants to communicate even what their individual interests, goals, and priorities are - a necessary precursor to uncovering common interests on the way to a shared vision.
  • Susie Polnaszek: Creating opportunities and shared spaces for two players to spin off and work together. This could be a sign of network progress.
  • Kathy Reich: It was nice to brainstorm with some old friends and to benefit from the perspectives of new members of our network! Glad you found it helpful, Adene.
  • Stephanie McAuliffe: Hi! I thought it was fun and interesting. One thing I noticed is that those who participated in round one of the COP dominated a bit. What do you think about why that is?
  • Carrie Shoda-Sutherland: I really liked the opportunity to share our own experiences (both good and bad) so that others could take those learnings into consideration and avoid reinventing the wheel. It also reinforced for me that collaboration across some of our grantee networks - even those that appear to us as natural and obvious - require effort both on the funder side as well as the grantee side. We need to take the time to figure out how to support collaboration/networks and, if they don't to appear to be working, stepping back to figure out where the challenges lie.
  • Diana: I'm reflecting on Marie and Carrie's comments - the importance of building trust and stepping back to figure out where the challenge is. How can we apply this to the NNF and Stephanie's question? Are there opportunities for us to work on knitting the network and grow to the next level?