10 Nov. Webinar: Defining Our Domain ("network support)

Overview: During this webmeeting, Network Support cohort met to launch our cohort work, share live cases, interests, and motivators for embracing network approaches, and discuss desired learnings.

Presentation Material:

Conversation highlights:

After watching an excerpt from Nicholas Christakis’ TED talk on 'The Hidden Influence of Social Networks,' we commented on network issues that were “top of mind”. Ideas focused around the varying strength of network connection, structure, and size of networks:
  • Strength of network connection
    • Continuum of tie strength. Ties may vary in strength across networks, rather than individuals being explicitly ''in'' or ''out.''
    • Varying strengths of network connection. It's all about creating strong interconnections.
  • Structure and size
    • How to shift support structures to be adaptive to the organic nature of the network.
    • Network architecture. The opportunity to make shapes and patterns more evident.
    • How big should networks be to be effective? Understanding what kinds of patterns emerge.
  • Other
    • Inertia. Organic lifecycles; groups feed off each other.
    • Idea generation and communication. Networks enable inclusivity, especially when ideas differ across the network.

We also reflected on successful past community of practice experiences, and what we;'d like to bring into the CoP. Responses included:
  • Maximum participation of the community. If people were not able to attend, it was noticeable. Regular check-ins are critical to maintain momentum and connection between the group.
  • The peer assist model. The ability to gain feedback and learn from others.
  • The level of structure. Structure here [with NNF] has been great. Other groups have been overly collaborative. A balance is required: Leave enough space to motivate and enable collaboration.

Finally, we explored why we're embracing Network Approaches, To launch this dialogue, we looked at archtypal theories of change for network approaches:
  1. Networks for connectivity. Greater connectivity leads to more effective individual and collective work, and therefore better field-level outcomes.
  2. Networks for field-level impact. Building and supporting action-oriented networks can drive progress toward targeted outcomes.
  3. Networks for movement building. Networks are a vehicle for grass roots engagement and for connecting a range of activities and actors working toward a shared vision of longer-term transformation.
  4. Networks as an enabling infrastructure for social change. Networks are an important lever for social change. Increased network effectiveness helps build capacity for social change.
  5. Networks as a way of working. Use of social media and embracing web 2.0 principles (e.g. decentralization, transparency) make it possible to tap networks inside and outside of an organization, resulting in better information flows, access to expertise, and field-level impact.

Then, each of us shared network-centric projects that we're working on the motivator for taking a network approach:

The majority of participants (5) cited the fourth dimension, “Networks as enabling infrastructure” as a key motivator, with several placing particular emphasis on the “capacity building” aspect.
    • [Our primary motivators are] #1, #2, #4 (from list above). [We are providing] capacity building and support to weavers and three networks.
    • Community capacity building at the county level, to understand the impact of childhood experiences. How can we support structure; nurture the nature of the network structures in each community.
    • [We are piloting] a new approach for capacity building. Three networks were invited to apply for a network grant. This is unusual for us to offer. The Theory of Change is that individuals and nonprofits can do more together than alone.
    • Network of WA State Family Policy Council Community Networks: #4
    • [HCF’s] Island Innovation Fund relates to # 4. Infrastructure for social change. We want to see the nonprofit sector work differently to maximize impact.
  • “Networks for connectivity” was the second most commonly cited motivator (cited by 4 participants).
    • [We are] exploring local funding partnerships. How to connect local funders to our work.
    • Most of our networks work fits into the 1st category (connectivity).
  • Three participants cited the second dimension, “Networks for field-level impact.”
    • Field building impacts: We are working on interpersonal / intimate partner violence and violence in general. Prevention / Intervention strategies.
    • How to become a web 2.0 philanthropy. How to engage the “audience” more directly in our work. This will improve the work in two ways: smart people providing good feedback; and large aggregations of small acts can add up to big things. Formerly we held a traditional view of staff, grantees, and an “audience” with which we weren’t terribly engaged. Now, within the audience many people with similar interests. We are exploring how to make it easy for people to contribute in small ways.
  • Two participants cited “networks as a way of working.”
    • Current project maps to 5. Just launched RFP to increase use of social media in Jewish space; and teach foundations how to do grantmaking in this space.
  • No one cited “networks for movement building” as a primary driver.
  • When asked “What’s missing,” networks for “scouting / sourcing” was noted.
    • Helping philanthropies determine where to put resources. i.e., knowing what interests various philanthropies, and connecting them to good work.
    • Related to crowdsourcing / accessing diverse perspectives.