Feb 23 Webinar: Network Participation, Governance, and Learning Systems, a Conversation with Steve Waddell

Overview: When networks include big and small, local and global, business, government and civil society organizations, they bring big challenges to values of participation, equity and voice. How do we handle the differences in power and capacity, to realize the promise of our collaborative abilities? What are the governance and planning strategies that can address these types of issues so all are effectively engaged? Steve Waddell presents some suggestions, drawing from a couple of decades of work with collaborations, and the last decade with a particular focus on global multi-stakeholder networks.

Steve Waddell, author of the recent book Global Action Networks: Creating our future together (2011), focuses on inter-sectoral (business-government-civil society) and inter-organizational collaboration. For more on Steve and his work, visit: http://networkingaction.net/

Presentation Material:
To download the presentation, click here.

Conversation Highlights:

Network Typology [see slide #2]
  • There are various ways to categorize networks (e.g., by type, organizing structure, and participation). Steve’s typology of network types includes: (1) inter-personal, (2) organizational, (3) inter-organizational partnership, (4) inter-organizational network, and (5) system
Types of Governance Structures [see slide #3]
  • Just as there are different types of networks, there are different types of governance structures. Moreover, governance is contextual, and a particular type of governance may not work for every situation.
    • When should a network be driven by a leader? When should it be driven by the group (i.e., allowing the network to self-organize, so it’s not all coming from one hub)?
  • D. Snowden’s “Cynefin Analysis” can be used to assess what type of governance structure is needed. It looks at two dimensions
    • Techno vs. learning: questions can be answered using existing technical processes, or they may require additional capacity building
    • Low vs. high abstraction
  • Based on these dimensions, the “Cynefin Analysis” model outlines 4 types of problems:
    • Visible Order (bottom right): A definable problem and solution. The analogy: ‘filling potholes’ rather than high science
    • Hidden Order (top right): The solution is difficult to see at first, but it can be solvedit with some analysis—it is an engineering problem
    • Complex Un-Order (top left): These are emerging systems. Cause and effect are complex. While we have a sense of what needs to be done there is a significant need for exploration. Many of us work in this context
    • Chaotic Un-Order (bottom left): These are situations with high degrees of randomness and unpredictability. We need to pursue many different approaches at once in order to find a solution. Organizations that follow routines are usually less skilled at this approach
  • A pitfall to avoid is applying a “pothole” approach to a complex adaptive problem
Attribute of Governance [slides #4-5]
  • What are some elements you believe promote equity in a network?
    • Promoting ownership of results
    • Listening & accommodating
    • Investing time in explaining what participants think is “equitable”
  • Insights on Network Governance
    • Governance can create legitimacy and trust, leading to a sense of cohesion among network participants
    • A network driver or a steward may be needed to help keep things moving and to hold the whole.
    • Replicating governance structure across different levels of the network (e.g., at the global, national, and local levels) can help network members maneuver more comfortably through it
    • Principles and organizational approaches that apply to GANs seem to be very similar to networks that operate on a smaller scale
  • Additional questions raised:
    • In what roles do people agree to let themselves be governed? What makes them decide which rules they’ll pay attention to?
    • What’s the relationship between governance and the so-called back office or backbone organization?
    • How can governance help foster network stewardship?
    • How can we use governance to distribute responsibility and create multiple spokes and hubs?
Membership Types [see slide #7]
  • When designing governance structures, it’s helpful to keep in mind that there are different types of “membership,” for example: citizen, participant, co-owner, and customer.
    • Bringing new members in is an organic process, and as such some networks are informal about defining who’s a member and who’s not
    • How do network members become aware enough to know they’re in a network?
  • It can be beneficial to make up a new type of membership category (e.g., “advisory group”) to engage key stakeholders who may not otherwise be involved
  • There is a tension between keeping the boundaries of the network porous and engaging new participants, and sharing control / distributing control. How best to manage this dynamic??
Case Studies
  • An example of an inter-organizational network in which coalition building is fundamental is Transparency International:
    • In order to gain legitimacy, Transparency International needed to include a more diverse set of stakeholders, e.g., individuals with power / access to resources as well as representatives of groups who are already tackling corruption locally
Additional References
  • Societal Learning and Change, Steve Wadell (2005)
  • Chaordic Commons (visit: http://www.chaordic.org/) is a global network of individuals and organizations committed to pioneering new ways to organize, founded by Dee Hock
  • Structure Lab (visit: http://www.criterionventures.com/ht/d/sp/i/1428/pid/1428), a Packard-funded training for entrepreneurs in which they talk about what type of group / organization they want to create and then explore the structures that might get them there