Thursday, November 12, 2009

You may find yourself living in a large network, and you may ask yourself... Well, how did I get here?

Inspired by my favorite Talking Heads song: "Once in a Lifetime".

We often wonder "how did I get here?" when we look around and reflect on our personal networks. Where did all these connections come from? Did I do all this? Who helped weave my network? What can I do with these connections? Where can I add more?

I will go through key growth stages of a network that evolved this past decade. Many of the connections have already resulted in creative collaborations. Other connections are just bearing fruit now. Networks are like that -- a new connection does not always bear instant fruit, sometimes the growing season for some links is very long. Yet at the end, the fact that the link is already established, an opportunity is spotted and acted upon using the resources that the link provides.

Many years ago the network looked like this. Two people are connected if they interact with each other as friends and/or colleagues. ONet represents a now defunct on-line group: The Omidyar Network. This was a gathering place to help people discover how they can make a difference.

People on ONet got to know each other from their on-line activity and Jerry introduced Tom to Valdis -- he closed the triangle amongst himself, Tom and Valdis.

Next, Tom introduced Jean to Valdis at a seminar he organized in Boston. Soon after that, Steve reached out to June after doing a web search on "network weaving."

In the next phase, June introduced Steve to Valdis to work on network mapping, and Valdis introduced June to Tom to speak at his next seminar in Europe. Notice as people start "closing triangles" via introductions, the original meeting place for a portion of the group -- ONet -- starts getting pushed to the periphery.

Next, Valdis introduces June to Jean to share similar interests and goals, and after working with Valdis on network maps Steve introduces Daniel, who is also interested in network mapping, to Valdis.

Finally, Jean meets Jerry at another event and the network as it stands today is now in place.

When we make introductions, and close triangles, we are not doing it to merely create new connections. Network weavers usually have a goal in mind when connecting two new people -- a project, a mentorship, a future collaboration. The links between Daniel, Jean, and Valdis were in place several years ago but only this year did they all collaborate around a common project. Jean and Valdis were working on thrivable networks and Daniel was organizing a conference around building networks to help inner-city kids -- all three were going to be in Chicago the same week. After a few emails it was agreed, Jean and Valdis would do a workshop on building thrivable networks @ Daniel's Tutor/Mentor Conference.

So, networks are built in many ways. First, by being in the same physical or virtual space, and second by active network weavers who make strategic introductions for the benefit of those they connect and for the benefit of the entire network. Networks are also activated in many ways. Sometimes by the initial introduction and connection to an immediate need, and other times, existing links need a little nudge to activate -- like an obvious opportunity. Our themes in the workshop will be:

Know the Net - map the existing connections of your community/ecosystem
Knit the Net - weave and support new connections, build a thriving network
Nudge the Net - activate the network toward self-organization and action

Register here online and join us in Chicago on November 20th!

How did we get here?
Letting the days go by...
Many years of knowing, knitting and nudging.
Same as it ever was... Same as it ever was...