Sunday, February 28, 2010

NetworkWeaving on Twitter

I have created a Network Weaving List on Twitter. This is to follow those who focus on network weaving/building/organizing/mentoring/coaching/facilitating/etc. This list is not about network analysis nor network mapping.

Please see what is being tweeted and send me a DM to my @orgnet account if you would like to join.

The three authors of this blog are all active on Twitter: June, Jack, and Valdis

Come join us as we weave conversations and networks!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Funding in a Networked World

As the funding landscape shifts at the rate of the economy, many funders are rethinking, if not reinventing, the way they approach their missions and success metrics.

There continues to be a whole genre of problems and issues in every market and community that persist specifically because of the fragmentation and competition among funder grantees. Many funders are realizing that systemic issues cannot be impacted by any amount of fragmented or competitive efforts.

This is not to say that there isn't value in the kind of fragmented and competitive efforts supported by funder RFP and award contests. Much good has come from these over the past decades, but there is a glass ceiling of impact and outcomes that can only be broken through with new kinds of collaborations between and among providers.

More funders are intrigued with the possibility that new levels of outcomes and capacity building will come from new kinds of collaborations.

Thanks to innovative applications from the social network sciences, we now have the tools and principles to build provider networks where collaborations can replace the constraints of fragmented and competitive efforts. In collaboration networks, providers discover what they can do together that they could never do apart, alone, or in opposition to one another.

In strong networks, network members naturally and dynamically align and collaborate in self-organizing ways. They are constantly organizing and reorganizing the assets in the network in new ways to include new members in new efforts. They share responsibility for a commonly-defined future in ways they would never do even with all manners of institutional to-down injunctions and incentives.

Building collaboration networks requires a new set of competencies for both grantees and their funders. On the grantee side of the equation, new collaborations require skill sets like:

  1. How to develop network awareness, influence, and access

  2. How to network weave new kinds of affiliations

  3. How to create vision alignments with other providers and suppliers in the network

  4. How to combine assets in projects to deliver higher level sets of outcomes

  5. How to build the organizational and leadership capacity for collaborative proposals and projects

  6. How to unleash the power of stories beyond statistics for new outcome metrics

On the funder side, new skill sets include:

  1. How to move from a deficiency to strengths and assets based understanding of provider networks

  2. How to weave networks capable of self-organizing new kinds of collaborative proposals & projects

  3. How to frame the new metrics and vision that will inspire new collaborative possibilities

  4. How to evaluate collaborative proposals for collaborative success potentials

  5. How to help build the kind of leadership and board cultures capable of new kinds of collaborations

  6. How to redefine accountability from siloed to collaborative models

As funders and grantees develop these capacities, these networks become stronger, meaning more innovative, pragmatic, visionary, proactive, and agile. As providers learn to share opportunities and resources, they become far more efficient and effective together than they could ever be alone.

Until we build strong provider and supplier networks, funders have no choice but to continue the practice of funding contests, at the expense of systemic impact and grantee-initiated innovations. It is simply amazing what happens when grantees are expected and invited to think together outside the box of standard RFP's and awards. It is even more amazing when they combine rather than protect their assets in service of larger visions of collaborative possibilities. Until funders and grantees develop network and collaboration competencies, they have no choice but to continue old models in hope of new outcomes.

Luckily, none of this takes as much courage as commitment and sense of pragmatism about moving in steps toward a future different from the past. As we see the funding and grantee space transform, we will continue to see their markets and communities transform at the same rate and scope.

from 2010 Jack Ricchiuto

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dynamic & Static Affiliations

In every network, people cluster by affiliations. These are affiliations based on shared transactions, ideologies, interests, adversaries, demographics, and histories.

And there are two basic types of affiliations, dynamic and static. In static affiliations, people cluster with an intention to protect the membership and characteristics of their affiliation. Sociology sometimes refers to these as "strong cliques" where people feel a relatively strong/sticky sense of loyalty to one another and the basis for their affiliations.

In dynamic affiliations, people cluster with an intention to grow and evolve their cluster's membership and characteristics. They are more loyal to the kind of inclusion and diversity that allows the cluster to emerge as a self-organizing, adaptive ecology of connections.

When it comes to growing networks, one strategy is to grow more dynamic clusters of collaborations and transactions. Another strategy is to expand weak static affiliations that may not be as attached to their clusters' status quo.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The 4 Laws of Networks

The more we understand about networks, the more amazed we become at their immense and inscrutable power and elegance, starting with the fact that networks do not have "centers" or "boundaries" and act more like complex adaptive systems than orderly hierarchies.

Getting things done in networks barely resembles the rules of getting things done when the whole is divided into power, knowledge, and responsibility haves and have-nots. Best and worst of all, networks do not "play by the rules" because they are intrinsically too fluid and self-organizing for that. And because of that, they tend to be far more incubatorial than traditionally designed organizations and social structures when it comes to innovation and resiliency.

So are they simply random fields of chaos? Hardly. The more we intentionally grow networks, the more we discover very clear laws at work. Let's look at 4 laws of social networks, realizing that there may be galaxies more beyond these.

1. Luck = consciousness x transparency

The premise of my second book in 2002, "Accidental Conversations" is that "the best things in life happen unplanned." It continues to be amazing that when people hear that, they respond far less with outrage or defiance, but with juicy story after story about how the best things - and people - in their lives emerged in unplanned and unpredictable ways. The grace of serendipity is one of the most powerful and accessible currencies in networks and, as luck would have it, it happens at the intersection of (network) consciousness and being transparent about one's gifts and passions. A few books later, in "Conscious Becoming" I suggest that to be "conscious" is to be "curious." The most curious and transparent people are also the luckiest in networks.

2. Innovation = learning x diverse connections
I disagree with the argument that innovation is the child of desperation. I wish it was so, because if it was, we would be on a planet devoid of incredible amounts of preventable child deaths, failed economies, and the rest of what would otherwise be tragedies that could be prevented by innovations of all kinds. The pragmatic reality is that innovation happens at the intersection of learning and cultivating diverse connections. When you have diverse connections in a network, learning almost cannot not happen. Networks literally become learning disabled if the connections become too homophilous and without learning, no innovation is possible.

3. Influence = credibility x location
If your passion is to create a future different from the past, you value influence and influence happens at the intersection of credibility and location in the network. Get to know the people in a network who know lots of other people and cultivate credibility with them, and you have natural and authentic influence. Your voice can soften and you can put your spam weapons down because you will organically influence open spaces within your network simply because it is a function of location and credibility.

4. Network growth = introductions x generosity
Some networks grow into thrivability with far fewer resources than resource-rich networks. It is because people in these thriving networks make more introductions of people who don't know each other and practice more acts of generosity. Good introductions are an art form anyone can quickly learn and master. Generosity is offering your gifts to others who value them, without the strings of reciprocity attached. Generosity and introductions accelerate the growth the networks in amazingly unpredictable and wonderful ways.

These 4 laws continue to inform and inspire the work June, Valdis and I do with communities and networks and people continue to be amazed at their truth, beauty, and power. Networks grow at the speed of introductions and acts of generosity among and between members of a network.

Jack Ricchiuto |

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Non-Profit Boards as Thriving Networks

Why is that we've arrived at the place where so many of people consider the term "dysfunctional non-profit board" as a redundancy? Especially when so many non-profits are struggling to survive and their communities value them more than ever. From a group design perspective, board dysfunction is both an unnecessary and talent-wasteful practice to continue.

One of the most common indicators of really poor board design is when boards "look forward to the new board president,” incorrectly thinking that a change in leadership could possibly compensate for poor board design.

Following the design principle that "things always perform the way they're designed to perform,” the only way for a board to perform better is to better design the structure and functionality of the board. Then, when a board is better designed, a new good leader will more easily and successfully contribute great value to the board's capacity and performance.

So, we need to radically rethink the design of boards. We need to end the practice of boards as committees more interested in rules than resilience, and more obsessed with structure than engagement.

We need to start thinking of boards as thriving aspiration, asset, and action networked boards.

In a networked board architecture, the board would be comprised of a thriving network of aspiration, assets, and actions, organized by a core team. The core team is a network-elected group of 6-8 people, with continuity-friendly terms, that sustains the legal and fiscal responsibilities of a 501.c organization.

The primary work of the core team is to grow the capacity, impact, and agility of the board’s network.

The network would include key organizational stakeholders, community entrepreneurs and experts committed to the organization's success, interested community members, volunteers, and even funders, investors, and other non-profit partners. As with any healthy network, anyone can join the network and leave the network at any time.

The work of the core team is to continuously invite people, groups, and organizations into the board’s network who would be able and willing to contribute value to the thrivability of the organization in the currencies of tangible and intangible assets.

These assets include ideas, talent, resources, funds, and connections. Not only would the core team invite people into the network, everyone in the network is expected to invite other people and assets into the network.

As an aspiration network, the network would continuously inspire the core team, organization, and the network with long and short term vision. As an asset network, the network would engage and grow the kinds of assets that could help realize these aspirations. As an action network, the network would engage people in projects that would add value to the success and thrivancy of the organization.

The core team of the board grows and weaves the network, so that it is an ever-evolving network of compelling vision, rich with diverse assets, and engaged in new ways to grow the organization and the network. This replaces the structure of “board committees” that manage to exclude resources and engagement outside the board and to spend more trying to get to consensus than to incubate rich ecologies of diverse projects.

The purpose of the board's core team and network is to complement the organization's assets. Where the organization needs financial, legal, strategic, marketing, fundraising, or volunteer assets, it now has a core team and the network to engage the network's assets. This eliminates the capacity constraints of the board. How would you like to be a non-profit with a board whose asset constraints are not an issue?

Compared to traditionally designed boards, networked boards are incredibly more inclusive, agile, and innovative. A networked board increase the chances that non-profits will become more collaborative, resource-wise, and strategic than ever before.

Of course this approach will only be embraced by only the most strategic and visionary non-profit boards. Once more of them engage and prove the model, it will hopefully become the norm, and we will see more non-profits thrive as community investment organizations.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Rethinking Competition in a Local Living Networked Economy

As more communities move toward a vision of local living networked economies, the whole conversation about the nature and value of competition comes into question.

The invitation for local living networked economies emerges from commitment to the profoundly provocative and transformational question: What can we do together that we can't do alone?

Competition is one form of network connection on a continuum of possible connections. On the other side of the continuum is collaboration and in between are co-opetition, niching, and complementarity connections.

In competition, we’re committed to the eat-or-be-eaten demise of other market providers. In co-opetition, we team up with a competitor on a project or offering that serves us mutually, agreeing to compete on everything else. In niching, we serve or create a market segment that is under-served or under-satisfied. In complementarity, we provide other providers with value that helps them, succeed and grow. In collaboration, we’re committed to sharing market share with other providers and team up with them regularly for mutual growth of our respective businesses, the local market footprint, and growing non-local markets and business.

In a community where there is a thriving bicycle market, any combination of these five connections can occur among the bicycle shops in business there. The character of this dynamic market ecology of providers has endless possibilities.

Shop A is committed to a competitive connection with some or all of the other shops, doing everything it can to weaken or eliminate them from the market. Shop B is committed to growing new niches in the bicycle market, through the innovation of alternative energy powered products.

Shop C used to be a full-service shop but has recently strategically committed to being the prime supplier of tires for any of the other shops who agree to their sourcing. Shop D openly competes with shops A and E, and at the same time is committed to selective co-opetition with them in the shared reduction of health care costs with shared plans and joint marketing efforts to grow the local footprint of the adult market, since only 20% of this market ride bicycles on a regular basis.

Shops E and B have recently collaborated on a very successful regional bicycle marathon event partnering with local arts and culture organizations for the event. Shops B and C team up to share professional services, and use the cost savings to collaborate on price reductions and savings for their respective customers.

Each of these 5 fundamental market provider connections has potential value to create a provider network for the community that gives the community products and services that are increasingly: convenient, affordable, locally-relevant, market-diversity responsive, quality service, innovative, adaptable, proactive, and promotive of a local living economy.

The community has the opposite of these when the provider network ecology is dominated by competitive connections.

The competitive connection is the simple commitment to weaken or eliminate other providers in a community's market. If the provider network is weak, meaning it lacks a healthy mix of the other 4 kinds of market connections, dominance will occur and providers - and their local suppliers, employees, investors, and customers - will all lose as the cost of one dominant monopolistic supplier's gain. This can happen as well when two suppliers team up their resources and position to triangulate the rest of the market into failure.

The market loses everything in a monopoly of providers: choice, affordability, convenience, quality service, incentive for innovation, and the rest.

Creating thriving ecologies of market provider networks means engaging our assets with a commitment to foster, nurture, and reward a healthy mix of provider connections in any local community market. This is the job of network weavers, regardless of whether they act independently, as grass-roots organizers, as members of institutions, or as market provider members.

This approach is not only pragmatic, it is also possible, and begins with two simple steps: introducing the language of the competition-collaboration continuum and inviting people into new conversations that make them more possible.