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?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Use the network of people, both activists and new people, to fund and be part-owners of a coworking type space - a physical place for people to gather and create things together, especially people who are new to geting involved. It provides a way into activist organizations that can seem somewhat impenetrable.