Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why do Network Weavers need to understand Web 2.0?

Why all the emphasis I've been placing on Web 2.0? Well, because the possibilities it represents are tantalizing: can new social technology help us create more effective networks that enable us to create a world that is much better for virtually everyone?

With so much at stake, I think it's imperative for us to allocate time to hang out with people Stowe Boyd, a blogger and Web innovator, calls edglings - people who are experimenting with new tools as they pop out, and are giving us a sense of what they are really good for. Here are intriguing bits of what Stowe Boyd is discovering:

A rich online culture is transformative for us individually and for the culture at large.

Information streaming from our friends on the web will shift the way we make sense of the world.

Information will be pushed to you all the time from friends, not pulled to you by browsing.

Don't set up a community online and hope people will come, find out where people are already hanging out online and be there listening

As Network Weavers, we often are the bridge between innovators such as Stowe and our communities. We have to hang around, or maybe even become, edglings ourselves. We need to learn how to make sense of all the experimentation and figure out how to communicate about the best of it to our peers. We need to have a basket of social tools ready so that when a situation arises where that tool can make a big difference, we are ready to show people how they can use it.

I'm astounded how much I've been learning about possibilities just by following 100 edglings on Twitter and by using blog readers. After only a few weeks, I've slid into a new culture - and it's all been quite painless, even fun and enlightening.

Do you know any edglings? Tell us about them.

If you don't know any edglings, how might you find them and weave them into your network?

Or, look who Valdis, Jack and I are following on Twitter and follow them. Listen. Open up. Watch what happens.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Triangles on Twitter

We often talk about closing triangles and making introductions as a way to build resilient networks through network weaving.

Here is an example of closing triangles via Twitter. Track the triangle closing process from my Twitter log above -- oldest tweet on bottom. The blank space in the tweet log was from another person I am following that had nothing to do with the closing of the triangle. Starting at the bottom of the above pic...

1) I follow John Robb on Twitter and he tweets about a book he is reading
2) I re-tweet his post so that those who follow me on Twitter can learn about the book.
3) June, who is following me, sees the re-tweet and aims her tweet at John [using @johnrobb] stating she has read the book and found it useful.

Two people that I have known, but did not know each other, can now be connected. They connect by seeing [via Twitter] their mutual interest in a book and in an idea. Maybe June and John can now talk about "resilient communities" and their experiences with them?

Since June and John have some similar interests, yet come from diffeent communities and contexts, we have another example of...

Connect on your similarities and profit from your differences!

Who's not in the network map?

Often people create network maps by surveying the "usual suspects" and then creating a map of the relationships among that set of individuals.

I think it's just as important to show who's not in the network. I've been saying for longer than I care to remember that diverse perspectives are critical if we are to be jolted out of our "normal" ways of thinking and acting so that we can make breakthroughs.

The map above shows a network of community organizations interested in helping lower income entrepreneurs access credit. A group of them started meeting, but found they were making little headway. When they decided to map their network, I insisted that they include names of other people who had expertise in lending: area bankers and credit union staff. When the community organizations saw the map shown above, they instantly realized their problem and knew what to do about it! They saw that they were lacking in the very perspectives they needed to make a serious impact on the problem.

It's astounding how important visuals are in helping people see what, to some of us, might seem like the obvious. People in this group were aware that they didn't have any bankers in their network, but until they saw the network map, they weren't able to understand that they were missing a resource and perspective that was needed to solve their problem. The lack of lines to the bankers made them instantaneously realize that these resources would not appear by magic, but needed to be accessed through relationship-building or, as we say, network weaving.

The map enabled the group to identify one person (lower middle of map) who did have relationships with a number of bankers. This person set up a series of breakfast meetings where several people from community organizations were able to get to know a few bankers and gauge their interest in joining the effort.

Once they began to include other voices, they developed a strategy that enabled them to reach many, many more entrepreneurs than they would have on their own.

Who's not linked to your network? Young People? Rich people? People from different ethnic or racial backgrounds?



Below are two previous posts of ours that examine adding diverse nodes and links to your network.

bridging holes in your network
weaving at a distance

Often you need to create an "attractor" to bring people you don't know out of the woodwork. ACEnet in Athens Ohio and E4S in Cleveland Ohio are such organizations. They attract people and groups who have similar interests and goals but often do not have any connections with others who are like them.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Network Guardians

One of the aspects of being a Network Weaver that I find most intriguing is the Network Guardian role. Fairly early in our network building in Appalachian Ohio, I played this role when I noticed that we needed to set up training for Network Weavers (we didn't call them that at that time). We found a group of 3 fabulous local "process people" who were willing to lead the peer learning group and then gathered 15-20 people from a half dozen key local organizations who wanted to learn the many skills and processes needed when working interorganizationally. The training/learning effort was a huge success and the newly skilled leadership that resulted made a big difference in transforming the region to what it is today.

A Network Guardian is like a Blakian angel (see above) who mentally flies over the network, notices what could make a difference for the network at that point in time and helps makes that happen. A Network Guardian might see the need for an article in the paper about the importance of networks, or might work with a local funder to set up an innovation fund that provides seed money to self-organized collaboratives.

This a a great role for foundations. They often have lots of information about the many organizations in their community or region and their networks and thus have the birdseye view needed to be a Network Guardian. They also have the resources to put in place the structures that most networks need: training for Network Weavers, Innovation Funds, communications systems, Network mapping, deep reflection sessions, etc. They have access to the public venues where they can "reframe": extolling the importance of openness to new ideas, explaining the intricacies of self-organization, and encouraging collaboration.

Does your network have Network Guardians? How do we encourage more people to play the Network Guardian role?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Keys to Scale and Transformation

What made the Savings for Change project so successful?

1. Train and Support Animators or Network Weavers. The animators were regional people who were outgoing, good listeners and good trainers--and good at letting go! They got groups started, then were trained to shift their role from trainer to coach.

2. Start Where The Energy Is. Don't try to work with everyone initially but pull together those who are really excited and interested and positive. This greatly increases the likelihood of success. You're working with those who are more open to innovation and probably have better collaborative skills.

3. Act Your Way Into A New Way of Thinking/Being: The first part of the project brought a small group together to do something that was both personally beneficial and good for the community. It quickly made a difference for the women in a way they, and others in the community, could see.

4. Frame The Personal Act As A Step Towards Greater Good. From the beginning, the animators set up the expectation that some of the people in the group would want to share the concept of savings groups with other women and help them set up a group of their own.

5. Have a Support System in Place for Those Who Want to Spread the Success. The animators offered a pictograph Handbook, group training, and one-on-one coaching for those who wanted to help others start a group. We need to provide the same kind of Network Weaving training in our networks.

6. Help people make the shift from one success to a way of life. Oxfam had the animators seed the community with the idea that the process of self-organizing that was so successful in the savings groups could be used in many ways to improve their community. They offered some specific examples and trained and coached the communities to implement those.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

How do good practices spread and become transformative?

The massiveness of poverty in the world is daunting – 3 billion people or 50% of the world population lives on less than $2.50 a day! Most international development, with high overhead due to involvement of western staff, does not begin to make a dent in these statistics.

Jeff Ashe, Manager of Community Finance at Oxfam, knows there is another way: build the capacity of local women to self-organize and then encourage them to share those self-organizing strategies with surrounding communities.

Let’s unpack this into its 3 parts:

1. First, local animators are hired who go into villages and set up a Women’s Savings Group. The 20 women in each group put a tiny amount of money into a common pot each week, then lend out that total to one woman to buy assets – such as a goat or chickens – that she uses to generate more income for her family. No bank (with all the attendant overhead) holds or tracks the money. Instead, the women are taught a simple memory system to calculate interest and repayments. Gradually, the women in the group move their families out of poverty.

2. The second stage makes the project viral. From the beginning, the animators encourage women in the group to learn how to set up additional women’s savings groups, both in their village and in nearby villages. The women accomplish this with only modest “coaching” from the animators. This way each initial savings group can eventually generate 10 or 20 times the impact of the original animator at no cost.

3. The third stage is transformational. During this stage the culture of the village and region becomes one of self-organizing: the women in the groups begin to see other things they can change in their villages and begin to organize projects to make those changes. Oxfam is helping to catalyze this shift by encouraging savings groups to market malaria nets and develop ponds to capture water during the rainy season.

A critical piece of the success: animators engaged in deep reflection that generated several critical breakthroughs. The first occurred when animators, very early in the process, observed that some women were going off on their own and starting additional groups. This was reframed from a problem to an opportunity, and led to the viral strategy described in 2 above. The second was the development of an oral mnemonic record keeping system that enabled illiterate women to be involved in the project. This then morphed into a pictograph system that made it even easier for women to share the system with other women.

The result: In just 37 months the Savings for Change Project ramped up in Mali – the country in the world with the highest poverty rate – to include more than 95,000 women. With funding from the Gates Foundation, this number is rapidly accelerating, and 80% of the new groups will be formed by women from existing savings groups. A rigorous research component will track the impact of the program on poverty and social capital.

You can make donations to this great program here.

Tomorrow I’ll post on how we can apply this to our situations. Post your thoughts and I’ll incorporate them into the post!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

New Resources for Non-Profits

Two recent posts on the internet point out some exciting possibilities for non-profits and community organizations. They point to huge shifts taking place that we need to work together on if we want to find the emergent "vein of gold."

The first is the rapidly increasing numbers of retirees (and many of my friends who are retiring are still in their 50s!) who want to become engaged in civic life. They are your future donors, volunteers or even staff. But they want to be engaged. Many don't want to just drop money on you but will insist on becoming actively involved in what you are doing.

The second is what Clay Shirky (you really ought to read "Here Comes Everyone" - It is so good and an easy read) calls cognitive surplus. In the past, people spent an enormous amount of time passively watching television.

If you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project—every page, every edit, every line of code, in every language Wikipedia exists in—that represents something like the cumulation of 98 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it's a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it's the right order of magnitude, about 98 million hours of thought.
And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that's 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 98 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, "Where do they find the time?" when they're looking at things like Wikipedia don't understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of the cognitive surplus that's finally being dragged into what Tim O'Reilly calls an architecture of participation.

Now, the interesting thing about a surplus like that is that society doesn't know what to do with it at first... Because if people knew what to do with a surplus with reference to the existing social institutions, it wouldn't be a surplus, would it? It's precisely when no one has any idea how to deploy something that people have to start experimenting with it, in order for the surplus to get integrated, and the course of that integration can transform society.

But, Shirky argues, that surplus is moving to the interactive spaces on the web. Many, many people would rather be active, and as opportunities for interactivity on the web explode, people are flocking to sites that let them do something! (Look at all those contributing to Wikipedia or Flickr.)

Web 2.0 enables us to find people who have already moved from passivity to interaction. Just hop on Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, delicious, etc. You'll find people who just might be interested in (maybe inspired by) your visions or directions. Then we need to weave them (and their network) into our network through involvement in specific projects: helping to set up a meeting or helping to make your web space more interactive.

As Clay Shirky says, "People want to participate, they want to produce, they want to share." Now how can we engage that energy to help the world become a better place for more people?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

How to Build a Network on Twitter

I'm spending so much time on Twitter because I feel it's such an important tool for Network Weavers.

Someone asked me how to get started on Twitter. Some thoughts:

1. Figure out what you want: learning, marketing yourself or something, getting to know new people, just mucking around?

2. If you know other people on Twitter, start following them. Then check out who they follow (we call this getting to know your friends' friends). If their posts look interesting, follow them. Many of them will turn around and start following you. In the first ten days, I started following 38 people and now 31 are following me.

3. Check out twitterlocal.net and see who in your town or neighborhood is on. Follow the ones you know or find interesting.

4. Use search.twitter.com and put in key words to find people interested in the same things you are. I tried civic engagement, transition cities and self-organizing. Then I used TweetBeep.com to keep me posted when anyone says anything about those topics.

5. Think of people you have little connection with: people from different ethnic or racial backgrounds, people with different political views, urban people if your rural (and vice versa), etc.

6. Watch other people's retweets or RTs (they put @person's name) then if you like what that person says, click on their name, read some of their posts and start following them.

7. When someone starts following you, send them a nice note.

8. After awhile, stop following people who never post or who's posts aren't up your alley, and try some new names.

What ideas do you have? For those of you with Twitter experience, what have you found works?

Let us know your experience in getting on Twitter!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Regional Flavor Resources

Thought I would pull together a few Regional Flavor Resources. Regional Flavor is a networking strategy that encourages communities to idenitfy unique aspects of their region and work together on projects to enhance that flavor. Generally, Regional Flavor Projects include food, tourism and artisanal entrepreneurs working with local microenterprise, economic development and tourism organizations.

Regional Flavor

Entrepreneurship with A Regional Flavor

Food for Thought

Online bashing - It doesn't have to be that way!

If you follow any political blogs, you have experienced how vicious people can be to those who hold different perspectives. It doesn't have to be that way!

A more productive path starts with the bravery of people moving into online spaces where people with different perspectives hang out. Our Chamber Executive Director (I'll call her Chamber Chief in this post) was brave enough to join a Sustainable Economy blog. However, when someone posted an article about Al Gore, she asked (snippily) whether Gore had an energy efficient home (She knew he didn't). A Sustainable Warrior responded by saying she was scapegoating, and back and forth it went.

But one of the facilitators of the list was fortunately a skilled Network Weaver. I'm going to quote generously from her intervention posts (using the pseudonyms). Wow! We all need to learn to be this skilled.

"Hi Folks! Thanks for all the great input. Chamber Chief...I too ask that you stay involved in this exchange. Let's see if we can ride this wave and not sweep anything under the rug. Sustainable Warrior, thanks for adding something to the conversation even though it triggered some uncomfortable feelings. I hope you will follow up on your comment but I do hope that we can raise the bar toward more collective caring and effort.

"I'm not convinced that we need to classify what just emerged as a conflict however. It certainly carries with it the potential for conflict but I'm hoping we can use this as an opportunity to defuse it, practice some communication skills, and move on toward our similar goals. It appears to me that the exchange might have more to do with the level of frustration many of us feel and the subsequent miscommunication, (i.e. assumptions, hurtful displaced comments) that often emerges with it. We, as a society, aren't very good at communication and conflict resolution and some feel it lies at the root of our current problems on the planet. Let's see if we can use this opportunity; after all it is a microcosm for our larger social challenges. If we can't learn the skills needed to care and communicate with each other here in a healthy fashion, how do we think we can create a more compassionate and peaceful planetary society?

"Do we agree that everyone's input is valuable, that we need to welcome diverse perspectives and views, that we want to create a caring and peaceful world, and that we need to learn to work together as a team if we are going to address our challenges and manifest the kind of life we want for ourselves and future generations?"

She followed this gentle talk by taking the most inflammatory statements and offering suggestions for how they could have be stated to still articulate a viewpoint but in less accusatory language. She listed simple rules the original group had agreed on:

"Listen to others respectfully, Build on other’s ideas, Leave space for all, Speak briefly and to the point, Be open to the guidance of the facilitator, Avoid critiquing, Agree to disagree, No hand guns. (hehehe)"

The response from both parties was amazing. The Chamber Chief commented:

"Wow. This is very well done and inspirational. I have a lot to learn about effective communications. I violated a lot of the agreements that you listed with my question and then again with my response. I would much rather work with Sustainable Warrior on a business idea than escalating frustrations that lead us no where. I REALLY want to be able to hold conversation and think the principles that you describe can be helpful in that manner. Please be patient with me as I learn these techniques."


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Network Weavers as Community Organizers

Last night Sarah Palin attacked community organizing.

This morning I sent $$$ to the Obama campaign.

Complex systems have indirect and unintended consequences... you would have learned that in Science class, Sarah.

Network weaving and community organizing have a strong presence in our nation's history. The American Revolution would not have been possible without connecting distributed networks and organizing local communities. Paul Revere, Ben Franklin and George Washington were mega network weavers. Without their community organizing, we would not have had a united front against King George and the British.

Community organizing and network weaving are much harder than working the hierarchy [from a position of power]. They are skills necessary to work in the real world where you have no hierarchical authority and must organize diverse parties with conflicting interests -- herd cats. In fact, community organizing may be one of the best training grounds for the global economy/society we live in today.

What do you folks think? What is your response to the attack on community organizing?

Update: Oh yeah, another famous community organizier...

Update 2: MSNBC reports Obama picks up $8-$10 million since Palin speech. While WSJ reports that McCain picked up only $1 million in the same time period.

Finding People Who Are Alike And Different

Moving Networks to Action is all about finding others who are interested in the same thing you are. But if you are going to be transformative you also need to be interacting with people who have different perspectives and access to different resources than you.

So, how do you find people with common interests who are also different in important ways? This is where I'm convinced Twitter is revolutionary. Twitter Search enables you to put in a word or words that describe your interest. Here you can see we have entered the word Foodshed.

This produces a list of names of people who have Twittered about foodsheds. You can check each one out, click on any that you want to Follow, and Twitter them to start a conversation. But particularly look for those who have different perspectives and stretch your mind. I found a person who linked to this cool Canadian map -- a new resource!

As a Network Weaver, you can help people in your networks use Twitter to find people with very specific mutual interests. Have them brainstorm a list of words and phrases that represent their current passion, and then steer them to Twitter Search.


UPDATE: Very practical advice June! Imagine how Twitter would work @ ACEnet -- if you can't make it to the 4 big food networking hubs in town -- Village Bakery, Kitchen Incubator, Big Chimney or Farmer's Market, just log in to Twitter [via mobile phone, if you have SMS/texting] and you have awareness of the conversations that are happening @ the hubs! Twitter provides constant ambient awareness!

Your post above is the perfect example of why I say...

Connect on your similarities and profit from your differences!

P.S. When June, Jack and I get together F2F we have many a-ha moments and often riff off of each other's ideas [we are also similar, yet different]. Hopefully, we can share some of that dynamic here through interactive posts like the one above.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Collaboration in Networks

As Network Weavers, we need to learn a lot about collaboration and how to support it. Here are two good papers on collaboration.

Building a Collaborative Workplace

From Workplace Courses to Global Conversations

They are written from the perspective of an organization but have really valuable information for networks and Network Weavers.

Here is a very interesting slide show from Nancy White on learning and Web 2.0.

Supporting Self-Organizing

One of the roles of Network Weavers is to help people identify opportunities and self-organize collaborative projects. But how do we use Web 2.0 to support that self-organization?

What does an inter-organizational collaboration need to track?

1. Strategy statement
2. Outcomes
3. Tasks
4. Who's part of this project?
5. Roles - who is responsible for what?
6. Timeline
7. Communication - when, how?
8. Progress
9. How to share with larger network?
10. Reflection - what worked? why? what would we change? what insights?

The best web app I've found to support such projects is Basecamp. It does cost $24/mo for up to 15 projects.

Has anyone else found useful ways to support self-organized groups?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Know the Net

When you know the net you can quickly get to the information or resources you need in your local community.

So, the statements below about John McCain's vetting process for his VP candidate are puzzling. Did they not know how to scroll through the network via key access nodes [a.k.a. network weavers] or did they just not do it?

From the New York Times...

"They didn't speak to anyone in the Legislature, they didn't speak to anyone in the business community,"said Lyda Green, the state Senate president who lives in Wasilla, where Palin served as mayor.

Representative Gail Phillips, a Republican and former speaker of the state House, said the widespread surprise in Alaska when Palin was named to the ticket made her wonder how intensively the McCain campaign had vetted her.

"I started calling around and asking, and I have not been able to find one person that was called," Phillips said. "I called 30 to 40 people, political leaders, business leaders, community leaders. Not one of them had heard. Alaska is a very small community, we know people all over, but I haven't found anybody who was asked anything."

The current mayor of Wasilla, Dianne M. Keller, said she had not heard of any efforts to look into Ms. Palin's background. And Randy Ruedrich, the state Republican Party chairman, said he knew nothing of any vetting that had been conducted.

State Sen. Hollis French, a Democrat who is directing the ethics investigation, said that no one asked him about the allegations. "I heard not a word, not a single contact," he said.

In Athens, Ohio, one of the key community access nodes is June Holley -- she can probably connect you to any part of the community or economy, either directly, or in one or two introductions/steps. June is not the only community access node in Athens -- there are dozens. You don't have to find the best one -- many well connected nodes will work as a productive starting point in your journey through the net.

The people quoted above all seem to be key members of the Alaskan state government -- all probably within 2 steps of each other, and network neighbors of anyone you would want to talk to when checking references and reputations.

Was the vetting rushed, or did they really not know the net, and how to get the key information they needed?

How can 30-40 key political players/nodes not know what is going on?

Sounds like WMD 2.0 to me. What do you think?

Gathering on Complexity Science

Plexus Institute 2008 Summit

Oct 3 2008 to Oct 5 2008
Starting 1pm October 3rd and ending 12noon October 5th

National Liberty Museum
Philadelphia, PA

Curt Lindberg


Connection for Change: Ideas, Communities, Networks

Please join us for an engaging two days to explore and share our collective wisdom on change inside our organizations and communities, and what makes it last.

This session will feature an emergent approach to finding insights about how positive changes take place in large and small systems, what sustains those changes, and the relationships between changes, human interaction and the emergence of new social patterns. As a conference attendee, you will shape the agenda by contributing your thoughts and ideas and the sharing the topics you want to explore with colleagues from similar and different fields. Activities will include:

Sessions “seeding” and “prompting” new ways of thinking from two cutting edge researchers J.A. Scott Kelso, the neuroscientist and researcher who wrote “The Complementary Nature” and Thomas Smith, sociologist and author whose work finds new connections between neural and hormonal systems and social behavior.

Learn about the work Plexus Institute has been doing with complexity science, nursing and healthcare, and find out how social network mapping and analysis promotes healthy organizational change and innovative practices. Explore how the social change process Positive Deviance has helped reduce healthcare associated infections and the improvements it may be able to achieve in low performing schools.
Conference attendees are encouraged to contribute their own work and projects to the “Pracitioners Marketplace”.
Don't miss this opportunity to address your complex change challenges through honest talk, quality thinking and collaborative action.

Registration form

Web 2.0 and Network Weaving

One of my favorite people to learn from these days is Mike Wesch. He is a professor at Kansas State University who is exploring the use of Web 2.0 to transform education into peer learning. Here are two of my favorite YouTube videos. These videos are critical for Network Weavers who want to know how Web 2.0 can help them build effective networks.

The first video is about his class.

The second is a talk he gave to the Library of Congress that is focused on YouTube and is super. If you only have time for one, watch this.

Network Weavers take note of the ways the students find community building on YouTube and how students used YouTube to build a network online. Also note the pages he put together for his classes and how his weaving of various Web 2.0 tools (Twitter, Facebook, wikis, RSS feeds, etc) create a huge support system for network building.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Fruit sharing networks

One of the things the Internet enables us to do is to connect people to under utilized resources. My favorite example is Fruit maps. The first one I came across was in Australia called Feral Fruit Maps.

Next came this example:Fallen Fruit.

The most recent is from that leader in innovation: Cleveland! Cleveland Fruit Share is identifying area fruit trees on public or abandoned land, or in yards of people who don't want the fruit. Notice they are using Ning.

The role of the Network Weaver here is to set up an interactive site and a google map app --and catalyze the process with discussion and/or (as in Cleveland) with a pear picking activity.

What other similar matching activities could we do using the Web?