Sunday, February 28, 2010
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
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:
How to develop network awareness, influence, and access
How to network weave new kinds of affiliations
How to create vision alignments with other providers and suppliers in the network
How to combine assets in projects to deliver higher level sets of outcomes
How to build the organizational and leadership capacity for collaborative proposals and projects
How to unleash the power of stories beyond statistics for new outcome metrics
On the funder side, new skill sets include:
How to move from a deficiency to strengths and assets based understanding of provider networks
How to weave networks capable of self-organizing new kinds of collaborative proposals & projects
How to frame the new metrics and vision that will inspire new collaborative possibilities
How to evaluate collaborative proposals for collaborative success potentials
How to help build the kind of leadership and board cultures capable of new kinds of collaborations
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 DesigningLife.com. 2010 Jack Ricchiuto
Monday, February 22, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Saturday, February 06, 2010
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.