Nov. 30 Webinar: Two Participant Cases & Peer Assists on Transitioning the Network & Inspiring Interest in Coordination

Overview: We explored two live participant cases using peer assist model:
  • Case one:The process of transitioning a network to other networks. Specifically:
    • Reflect on what role the funder plays as "hub/node" and who can replace/step in, what skills/capacities/steps to take
    • Small-scale experiments to see how network/group would self-organize
    • Better define (and measure?) the specific value gained by network members
  • Case two: How to inspire curiosity and interest in coordination amongst a group of grantees and funders working on a common issue

Conversation Highlights:

Participants were asked to share top of mind thoughts or questions. Reflections ranged from inspirational recent experiences to current challenges:
  • A recent experience allocating funding collaboratively, with NGOs and grantmakers at the same table, leaving personal and organizational interests at the door in the interests of the communities they serve
  • How to demonstrate impact at low cost: A grantee struggling to demonstrate impact of the networks work they are doing without resources to support analysis.
  • Ways to incentivize communication and information sharing, especially amongst stronger “players” who do not see the benefits to helping others.

The first Peer Assist explored how a funder can effectively transition out of a network leadership role. Key questions included:
  • How to build capacity at the local level?
  • How to get people to be curious about what is going on in another city?
  • How to transition a network into a self-sustaining group not requiring the foundation as a “node”? e.g., Is this done formally, or do you simply “let it go”?
  • How to define / assess the concrete value of keeping the network connected, beyond simple self-reporting?

Participants identified several important steps to a successful transition
  • Understand the specific components of the foundation's role, and determine who within the network can take these components over.
  • Identify a “vision” person to continue the work moving forward. Someone with a compelling view of the future of the network, that people want to rally behind.
  • Experiment with different ways of limiting the leader’s involvement. For example, still serve as the convener / set up call, but don’t participate.
  • Institute small scale institutional changes, e.g., rotating leaders who serve for a year.
  • Consider introducing more formalization than previously existed. Codifying objectives, vision, operating principles, etc.
  • Introduce a proposal for how the group may want to interact in the future, which they can react to / refine.

A related question of how to deal with turnover was surfaced. For example, what to do as structures and funding are shifting, with former full-timers shifting to part time, etc? How to continue function and form when values / people have shifted?
  • Identify a mentor to relay consistent message when bringing on new people
  • Establish a repository of information that new members can access to enable shared understanding, direction, and continuity.

Peer Assist #2: how to inspire interest in coordination amongst a group of NGOs and funders working on a common issue

Key challenges included:
  • People are busy, and do not often have time
  • Competition for funding is a disincentive to communication with like-minded orgs because there is a (perceived) need to be different from others working in the same field
Suggestions included:
  • Arrange forums: e.g., offer to host a dinner with relevant parties when they are collocated
  • Provide opportunities for organizations to “brag” about themselves in a way that is instructive of lessons they have learned and things they have done right.
  • Demonstrate the gap between how much organizations believe they know about each other, and the reality of the knowledge gaps.
  • Identify network members who are skilled mentors / trusted advisers who can serve as information hubs, connecting various members, and understanding both the big picture and details of the connections between them. e.g., Some foundations are already funding network weavers.
  • Establish easy, low barrier systems and practices to facilitate information sharing, particularly amongst larger communities of practice. Find ways to make the activities of the group transparent to enable them to see the whole / ecosystem.