Network Weaving

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Emergence Part 2

Here is part 2:

Emergence - Part 1

key to understanding self-organizing is the concept of emergence. Here is a nice video (via Lisa Kimball) in two parts.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Can we see self-organizing in our world?

I'm really finding BFI Book Group quite delightful. First, it's a good use of Ning, a free customizable social networking site, as a discussion forum. Might want to check it out to see how it works.

In addition, the quality of the discussion of The Invention of Air (by Steven B Johnson) is great. There's a new thread on Systems Thinking and Change that is fascinating. Saul Kaplan, who organized the Book Group, says level innovation is exactly what it is going to take to tackle the really important issues of our time including health care, education, and climate change.

But to get systems level innovation we need theory. Steven Johnson points out

...what we don't have is a convincing theory about the system that connects all these local innovations, that causes them to self-organize into something so momentous.

I think the theory is there, in the science of self-organizing systems and complexity. But virtually all of that literature describes everything but human social self-organizing systems: ecosystems, immune systems, termite colonies, etc.

Somehow we've created a culture and social system where the self-organizing capacity that termites illustrate so effectively has been damped way down. Our only path back to this birthright is to become highly self-aware of our natural capacity to self-organize.

We have to learn to see the self-organizing that exists in our lives before this broader theory can become social theory. As Steven Johnson points out in his excellent video, self-organizing is local, and we need to practice self-organizing in a way that enables us to build our self-organizing capacities: we need to gain new skills in listening and in working together and learn to reach out to those who are different from us in every way possible. As we do this, I think we will be shocked at the depth of creativity that is unleashed.

But as Johnson queries, how does all this little stuff become the stuff of transformation? I believe the magic of emergence can be assisted through networking structures (whether coffee houses or social media) that enable us to share deeply, and through processes that enable innovations to be woven together, to scale and make a difference.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Whither the Coffee House?

Saul Kaplan has set up an online book club on innovation. The first book we are reading and discussing is Steven Johnson's "The Invention of Air," which describes the coffee house culture of England and the U.S. in the late 1700's. Here are some of my thoughts about these places that were so crucial to innovation in that era.

Think about the coffee house - people flowing in and out with the frequent running into others and the chance to exchange and cross-fertilize one's latest spontaneous thinking, places for twosies to sit down and move the sparks that have been created into action, and groups coalescing around trending topics so larger stuff can emerge.

But the impact of traditional coffee house innovation is limited by class and geography. Little headway was made on issues such as poverty because no poor people ever made it in the door (except as unseen help). Social media is just now providing examples of how the web can overcome some of the coffee house limitations. One of the delights of Twitter is that you can create a coffee house peopled by quite diverse individuals from all over the world (I follow people from many countries and political persuasions) and, because you are overhearing all their comments and conversations, you can often find some opportunity to strike up a conversation and start to build a relationship with people you would never run into in this way in your ordinary life.

The difficulty, though, is reconceptualizing the physical place - a coffee house - as a set of innovation flows. Once you have a great provocative conversation with one or two people on Twitter, how and where do you move it so the energy and innovation continues to flow into action? I've now had a number of instances where the Twitter banter flowed into Skype calls/chats/document exchanges and then into face-to-face meetings or directly into some collaborative arrangement. The next missing piece is more support for small collaborations online. How do we keep track of all the small projects and what we are supposed to do for each?s

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Network Leap

The biggest network divide -- the one I think makes philanthropy so much less effective than it could be -- is the divide between so-called DONORS and BENEFICIARIES. I want to suggest that these terms are a little whacky.

I want to suggest that people who give money and people who have projects that need money need to rethink of themselves as a PEER NETWORK -- and that this small (but oh so difficult) step would instantly start a process of transformation.

First of all, people are doing fabulous, creative stuff out in communities. They are experimenting, working unbelievably hard, scrambling for resources to keep going. Philanthropists could learn so much from them about what works, what makes a difference - but how do they get a true picture of what is going on, because non-profits feel they have to make themselves look perfect to get money and so hide some of the most important information -- their mistakes!? How can positive community energy be identified and supported -- and be allowed to be imperfect, but held accountable for learning and making breakthroughs? What might happen if philanthropists stopped funding themes and started funding networks of high-energy groups that have or want to learn deep processes of innovation, collaboration and reflection?

But, by funding organizations rather than networks and projects, philanthropists take away the incentive to work with others, learn from others and get the kind of feedback that helps non-profits see the unproductive ruts they have slipped into.

The Viral Giving Network

An example of a Viral Giving Network was provided in two earlier posts about the Oxfam Savings for ChangeProject and Keys to Transformation and Scale. Women in the Savings for Change Circles spread their successful strategy for collecting savings and then lending to circle members to many other groups of women in their villages, thus increasing the impact of the project more than ten-fold -- at very little additional cost.

Viral Giving always includes training participants so that they can continue to spread the project. In Savings for Change, participants were given the framework of viral spreading ("You can spread this to other women in your village."), tools for spreading the project (a pictograph manual of how to run a savings circle), and basic skills and strategies to spread the project. Think about your projects: Are projects you fund something that can be spread? Or,do your projects have elements that could be spread (for example, the use of social media)? Do you suggest that spreading the project or elements of it are part of the project? Do you provide training in how these can be spread?

Video on Network Weaving

Thanks to the good folks at I-Open, especially Betsey Merkel, I'm sharing a 20 minute video on Network Weaving. This could be the first of a series, a tutorial on Network Weaving concepts and skills.

All I ask is that you provide some feedback: Is this useful? What about the length? What specific aspects of Network Weaving would you like to learn more about?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Transformative Philanthropy Network - the parts

In the next series of posts, I'll use examples to describe the 4 (maybe 5) sub-networks in a truly transformative philanthropy network. I'll offer a graphic that will show each part and then how they all fit together.

Part 1: The Viral Giving Network

Part 2: The Viral Donor Aggregation Network

Part 3: The Direct Donor to Recipient Network

Part 4: The Learning Networks

Part 5: The Engagement Across Divides Networks

You will see as each is described, the words that we use start shifting, opening up new possibilities.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Philanthropic networks

In the 2 previous posts I've been talking about philanthropists as if they were synonymous with foundations. In this post I'd like to deconstruct and reconstruct the notions of who is a philanthropist.

We have been blessed in this country (U.S.A.) to have many many foundations. However, these foundations, as was the case for businesses and government agencies as well, adopted organizational structures that were hierarchical and generally operated in isolation from other organizations. For the last decade, though, many entrepreneurial individuals and businesses have moved to an ecosystem model: they have vast relationships with other businesses of many types and sizes as well as with 'customers,' and they often operate through an ever-changing ensemble of of collaborative projects with others in their ecosystem. New product ideas, for example, are as likely to come from a customer or a microbusiness in another part of the world as from internal staff. Staff are often continually engaging with "non-staff" in a wide range of FTF and online venues. is an example of how philanthropy can operate in this new ecosystem world. The site draws in new philanthropists (who are mostly individuals who have never considered themselves as philanthropists before) mainly through friendship networks, and links people directly to individuals who need loans. It is this direct connection - knowing something about the person to whom you are lending money - that draws so many people in who never donated money to an abstract cause. How could foundations see themselves as builders of networks that create these kinds of direct connections and engage many more people in philanthropic activities? also has set up a structure to support the self-organizing of lender interest groups. More than 3000 teams help build relationships among the new philanthropists, expanding their understanding of and commitment to the larger initiative, thus setting up viral expansion pathways. In addition, offers an internship program that engages individuals in tracking success and further weaving the network.

How could foundations and other more traditionally organized philanthropists see their role as supporting the development of a complex philanthropic ecosystem?

Policy networks

How can philanthropy assist in the formation of policy networks? I think the biggest mistake foundations make is that they often convene non-profits interested in a particular policy area and have them talk (often for months or even years), struggling to consense on a specific policy agenda which they then push forward as a group. For many intractable problems, though, this approach is premature, and often doesn't result in long term system change.

Why not start with the most basic system change and create a different set of relationships among all of those who care about some major problem or possibility? How can development of a policy agenda engage policy makers and policy influentials (Institutes, individuals, and media that people look to to shape discussions in a particular policy arena) from the start? Instead of immediately focusing on policy, could these key policy players become engaged with non-profits around experiments that help everyone learn what effective policy needs to look like for this area?

How could foundations and agencies see their role as creating policy networks that connect non-profits (both locally and with innovators around the world) and help them build long-term relationships with policy makers and policy influentials? Non-profits are all too often isolated from the experience of other non-profits that could inform policy recommendations.Too often they forge ahead with a massive change agenda with little or no experience from which to determine whether what they are suggesting will actually work or whether it has the flexibility needed to match the uniqueness of communities. How could they gain the skills needed for effective network building and collaboration that would support ongoing innovation?

What would policy look like that encourages collaboration and is flexible enough to allow creative adaptation to each community funded? I would love to see policy-mandated funding be based on the Innovation Fund model: the first round of policy sets up seed funds available to many collaborative projects, each made up of small groups of organizations interested in exploring a specific innovative approach through collaborative action. Well facilitated reflection sessions encourage the seed projects to explore what they learned about this policy terrain as a result of their innovative experience. Policy-designated funds are then available for new, larger collaborative projects that are thoroughly tracked to develop the key "patterns of success." Larger scale policy is then developed based on this learning and experience.

Looking forward to hearing about your experience and thoughts!

Providing support for learning/policy communities among "grantees"

My first suggestion to enhance philanthropy is for foundations or philanthropists to be trend and energy seekers. Rather than have lengthy planning/priority sessions, why not have the program staff (and board) call people they respect (and then some random names from the non-profit, grassroots community) and ask them what they think are the most exciting projects, directions, organizations and individuals working in communities? As a result of listening, the foundation will quickly find out where the energy is, so that they can support, enhance and scale that good energy.

The first step in enhancing already emerging energy is to encourage and assist those energy centers to enhance their networks. I remember one very nice foundation that decided, after much internal study, on a focus for their grantmaking. They made a request for proposals from organizations interested in that particular focus area. Then the foundation selected a dozen or so organizations and brought them together to form a "network." Unfortunately, most of these organizations felt they had little in common and the processes the foundation used in their "network" gatherings did little to help the organizations get to know each other so they never identified commonalities. Because of the structure of the proposals (everyone had to lay out a 3-year plan), all of the groups had already decided what they were going to do, so there was little room for collaborative projects to emerge from the "network."

Now, let's look at another scenario. The foundation or investors identify energy centers in the network and ask them to identify their current network and who else they would like to be connected with. The foundation then negotiates a network building initiative with the core of the network (usually 6-10 organizations), providing the core with support to map their network and then learn basic Network Weaving skills so they can expand and enhance their network relationships. A key aspect of this strategy is to use the network weaving "training" as an opportunity to support the formation of a peer Community of Practice/Action/Reflection. Part of the Network Guardian role the foundation plays involves listening to the organizations and facilitating (or paying for facilitators) who watch topics emerge and structure convenings of all sorts (phone, FTF, Ning) (Twosies, small groups) to research and/or organize learning/discussion on these emerging topics. Out of this initial learning action collaborations form (which will usually need some coaching in inter-organizational project management!) and start doing things, usually innovative actions where there is high uncertainty.

So again, the foundation can help the collaboratives process what is happening - in real time as they "rapid prototype" - and make sense of what is happening. Does what they are doing feel like its going in the right direction? What have they been surprised about? What did they notice? What do they need to learn about? Who can they learn that from? For this kind of learning to lead to breakthroughs, the foundation as network guardian will need to make sure the reflection process includes participants and observers as well as the organizational staff.

So that this peer learning network is sustainable, it's important that the initial facilitator train individuals in the network in the skills need to continue learning activities after the initial grant ends. In this way, the facilitators seed the network with new network building and learning capacities that can become positively infectious!

What are your thoughts? Would this approach work? Who has already tried something like this?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Social Network Analysis Workshop

Escape the snowy North and come learn something new in sunny San Diego!

Valdis Krebs will be presenting a 1/2 day workshop on practical applications of social network analysis [SNA] at the upcoming Sunbelt Social Network Conference sponsored by INSNA -- International Network for Social Network Analysis.

This workshop will be on the morning of March 11th at the Bahia Hotel @ Mission Beach in San Diego, California. The Sunbelt conference will run until Sunday, March 15th in the same Hotel.

The hands-on workshop will feature a quick overview of social network analysis as applied to organizations and communities. You will get a chance to use social network analysis software to explore a simple data set. Whether you are a consultant, analyst, manager, activist, student, professor, or journalist you will learn how to apply this useful methodology with clients and customers.

Valdis and Erin Kenneally will have a presentation during the regular conference on Analyzing Networks of Corruption.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Viral Philanthropy Introduction

How can a foundation or charitable endeavor have the greatest impact? I think its through 4 basic strategies:

1. Funding 2-step viral strategies for transformation

2. Providing support for learning/policy communities among "grantees"

3. Creating viral strategies to build an expanding donor community

4. Enabling donor and grantee to engage directly

More on each of these tomorrow!

I'm not sure that any philanthropic effort currently employes all 4, but I'm counting on those of you who have implemented one or more to share your experience with us.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Points of Leverage for Transformation

When we want to understand how small changes can be leveraged into transformation, Donella Meadows has a great list of 12 leverage points she compiled back in the seventies, but which is still so applicable today.

The leverage point I most like is Number 3: The Power of Self-Organization.

The most stunning thing living systems can do is to change themselves utterly by creating whole new structures and behaviors. In biological systems that power is called evolution. In human economies it's called technical advance or social revolution. In systems lingo it's called self-organization.

Self-organization means changing any aspect of a system lower on this list—adding or deleting new physical structure, adding or deleting negative or positive loops or information flows or rules. The ability to self-organize is the strongest form of system resilience, the ability to survive change by changing.

The human immune system can develop responses to (some kinds of) insults it has never before encountered. The human brain can take in new information and pop out completely new thoughts.

Self-organization seems so wondrous that we tend to regard it as mysterious, miraculous. Economists often model technology as literal manna from heaven—coming from nowhere, costing nothing, increasing the productivity of an economy by some steady percent each year. For centuries people have regarded the spectacular variety of nature with the same awe. Only a divine creator could bring forth such a creation.

In fact the divine creator does not have to produce miracles. He, she, or it just has to write clever rules for self-organization. These rules govern how, where, and what the system can add onto or subtract from itself under what conditions.

Self-organizing computer models demonstrate that delightful, mind-boggling patterns can evolve from simple evolutionary algorithms. (That need not mean that real-world algorithms are simple, only that they can be.) The genetic code that is the basis of all biological evolution contains just four letters, combined into words of three letters each. That code, and the rules for replicating and rearranging it, has spewed out an unimaginable variety of creatures.

Self-organization is basically a matter of evolutionary raw material—a stock of information from which to select possible patterns—and a means for testing them. For biological evolution the raw material is DNA, one source of variety is spontaneous mutation, and the testing mechanism is something like punctuated Darwinian selection. For technology the raw material is the body of understanding science has accumulated. The source of variety is human creativity (whatever that is) and the selection mechanism is whatever the market will reward or whatever governments and foundations will fund or whatever tickles the fancy of crazy inventors.

When you understand the power of self-organization, you begin to understand why biologists worship biodiversity even more than economists worship technology. The wildly varied stock of DNA, evolved and accumulated over billions of years, is the source of evolutionary potential, just as science libraries and labs and scientists are the source of technological potential. Allowing species to go extinct is a systems crime, just as randomly eliminating all copies of particular science journals, or particular kinds of scientists, would be.

The same could be said of human cultures, which are the store of behavioral repertoires accumulated over not billions, but hundreds of thousands of years. They are a stock out of which social evolution can arise. Unfortunately, people appreciate the evolutionary potential of cultures even less than they understand the potential of every genetic variation in ground squirrels. I guess that's because one aspect of almost every culture is a belief in the utter superiority of that culture.

Any system, biological, economic, or social, that scorns experimentation and wipes out the raw material of innovation is doomed over the long term on this highly variable planet.

The intervention point here is obvious but unpopular. Encouraging diversity means losing control. Let a thousand flowers bloom and anything could happen!

Who wants that?

Amazing that she wrote this over 30 years ago!

What is Self-Organization?

I like to explain self-organizing as the capacity for any individual or individuals to identify something they would like to do to make a community better, find others who would enable that action to be a success, and access the resources needed to move to action. When many people are involved in numerous collaborative actions, and they share the successes and failures of those actions with others, the community can quickly become transformed and begin operating in new ways. This is called emergence.

Our brains, our immune systems, termite castles, ecosystems are all self-organizing. This self-organization has enabled each of these systems to be wonderfully adaptable and effective - far beyond what any single cell or termite could accomplish on their own.

Are we self-organized now? Well, when we organize a shopping foray with some friends, we are self-organizing. When we plan a wedding, we are self-organizing. Barn-raisings, where farm families would come together to put up a barn in one day, are a quintessentially American example of self-organizing.

But we're not so likely to be effectively self-organizing in relationship to big problems such as climate change or poverty. We tend to rely on bureaucracies or organizations to deal with community issues. Unfortunately organizations have often become siloed, tending to work alone and build an internal monoculture, and thus have difficulty generating the kind of innovation that the world needs right now. And we've become reliant on the operating procedures of the organization, where each person has a job, you know if you don't do your job you may well get fired, and communication channels are given.

So it can really make a difference to set up a support system for self-organizing. Such a system would include training and coaching to build basic self-organizing skills, incentives to encourage people to self-organize, and recognition of the role of network weaver in helping people self-organize. We'll talk more about each of these in future posts.

What has been your experience with self-organizing? What are the most successful self-organizing experiences you have had?

The Forgotten Building Blocks of Self-Organization

Most of the examples of self-organization that I find on the Internet are either personal or large-scale as in the Belarus flashmob example in a previous post.

The missing level of self-organization that no one is talking about is the small stuff: small group collaborations, especially those that cross organizational boundaries.

Self-Organizing Kickoff

If you haven't read Here Comes Everybody, grab a copy and you will soon understand why everybody is talking about self-organizing these days.

Clay Shirky, the author, is an engaging speaker with a long list of easy-to-digest videos on You Tube that I highly recommend.

One of the stories he tells of the power of self-organization took place in Belarus in 2006. Not allowed to protest by the repressive regime, young people used mobile phones to gather large ice-cream eating flashmobs. As smiling ice cream eaters were dragged off to prison, their plight was broadcast all over the world, weakening the legitimacy of the ruling party.

In a recent talk, Shirky asked "Why aren't people using Internet communications for positive actions or "online barn raisings?"

Ernst-Jan Pfauth, in a blog post on Shirky's talk, points out

Well, the people from small farm communities live in a totally different social environment. Three important factors stimulate them to organize events like a barn raising:

The farmers owe each other a favor;
The small social density causes social control. Everybody is tracking everybody’s action;
The people they know are likely to be around for some years, so it’s worth the investment

Shirky points out that these same conditions don't exist online so we have to design new environments for collaboration.

In upcoming posts, we'll review some of the ways people are starting to organize online and look at the key design elements of self-organizing, whether online or off.

Jean pointed out that some of you are already experimenting, so please let us know what you are doing by responding to this post!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Building on Diversity

Congratulations Mr. Community Organizer!

You beat them with the strategy they mocked.

Recently, I read an excellent book about Abe Lincoln -- Team of Rivals. In order to deal with a divided nation, Lincoln chose his cabinet from the best minds available. He ended up with a cabinet composed of mostly his rivals to the presidency. He chose these men for their abilities and experience. Lincoln knew the problems he faced were too much for one person. He knew he needed a team of experts -- all more capable than him in their specialities.

Lincoln was a master weaver in not only creating his team, but also managing them. A diverse team is difficult to manage, but usually produces better results than a team of like-thinkers. The key to Lincoln's diverse team was different thinking and different expertise and different styles. Yet, by appearance they were very similar -- all old white men. Same packaging, but different attributes.

Today's corporate world is full of apparently diverse individuals -- men, women, whites, blacks, asians, latinos, christians, jews, muslims, gay and straight. Yet, most corporations reward similar thinking -- which does not bring the rewards that diversity promises. We have organizations full of people that look different, but think the same. Everyone should read Team of Rivals to see how to mix, match and manage different skills, styles and abilities for maximum effectiveness.

We focus on Barack Obama's ethnicity -- but that is not why he won. It is his message, his vision, his leadership. 150 years ago, a tall skinny guy from Illinois focused on connecting a severely divided nation. Now, another tall skinny guy from Illinois faces a differently divided nation and needs the best team possible to move this country forward. I was glad to hear that Team of Rivals is one of Obama's favorite books. He will need to apply it's lessons learned to have an effective presidency in these tough times.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pop!Tech 2008

You know my old saying...
"Connect on your similarities and profit from your differences"

One of the best places to practice that -- if you are a progressive, technical, social, global/local thinker is at the annual Pop!Tech conference held in Camden, Maine every October. Can't remember how many people I met -- many more than the biz cards I collected. They were ALL interesting, if not outright fascinating, each in their own way!

Andrew Zolli, who is the conference curator, is a master network weaver -- connecting others through placement in the program or F2F introductions. You want to connect to Andrew, he will close many triangles for you.

THE conference for connecting -- Pop!Tech.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The New Organizers

"Respect. Empower. Include."

Sounds like the mantra of a network weaver.

Those three words come from the Obama campaign, from the the "Neighborhood Team Leader" concept as described in the Huffington Post.

Basic closing of local triangles...
Her team would be responsible for connecting with all of the Democratic and undecided voters within their "turf."

The strategy is not to have one central organizing point, like old campaigns, but to have multiple weavers working in concert -- each organizes their local geography/social circle. The natural evolution of "friends talking to friends", ...or at least acquaintances who are highly similar.

Our house was visited by one of these Neighborhood Teams. I talked to the volunteer about their tactics. They only visit those who are likely to vote for Obama -- they don't waste their time on those likely not to. This way they contact many more voters likely to tip their way -- an effective use of their time.

"I'm a different person than I was six weeks ago." I asked her to elaborate later. She said, "Now, I'm really asking: how can I be most effective in my community?"

Once connected, the community does not need to disband after the election. These connected people of like mind can stay together for other community improvement efforts.

Ironic, that the strategy & tactics of community organizing may be what defeats MacCain/Palin -- the exact concept they mocked at their convention.

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?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Nice Intro Slide Show for Twitter

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 and see who in your town or neighborhood is on. Follow the ones you know or find interesting.

4. Use 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 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?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Network Weavers Use Twitter

Okay, so how do Network Weavers use Twitter to enhance not just their personal networks but community or common interest networks? I started trying to figure this out by watching myself, being pretty much a compulsive Network Weaver. First, I had heard about Twitter but couldn't figure out how to use it so the last time I was in Cleveland I forced Valdis and Jack to show me how to get on and away I went. Network Weavers are ruthless in searching out and learning great Web 2.0 tools to support their networks.

Last night, I ran into Michelle at the Village Bakery (one of the world's great networking hubs!). She and her partner are the leading edge of the Athens locivare network and are now growing quinoa, amaranth, corn and buckwheat for local markets (They already have all this year's crops sold because they have a great network). I asked her if she was on Twitter. She said "No, but I've heard of it. I'll try it." (She joined the next morning.) My next steps are to model clever use of Twitter and suggest she get the "growing local grain" folks she hangs around with on as well. Network Weavers encourage and coach folks to try new tools.

I used Twitter to ask my twpel how they thought Twitter could be useful. George Nemeth of the fab Brewed Fresh Daily suggested as a way to track your geographic community. Network Weavers ask and learn from others.

More Twitter...

Actually, you can follow all three of us -- Jack, June and Valdis -- on Twitter!

Twitter is a micro-blogging platform -- one and two sentence posts -- which allows you to quickly share ideas and discoveries on the WWW.

Twitter's original idea was that people post answers to "What are you doing?" I like to answer the questions "What are you interested in?" and "What are you paying attention to?" I tend to follow people that answer similar interest/attention questions in their tweets [posts to Twitter].

Here is a quick intro to Twitter and some musings about network mapping of Twitter data. The graphic below shows part of my Twitter graph in the first month of use -- who follows whom.


I'm exploring Twitteras a Network Weaver tool for building relationships. The Twitterers I most admire offer a combination of personal observations with "caught in the moment" flashes of insight and links to cool sites. If you Twitter, and want to get Twittered when I post something new on the blog, check me out at juneholley.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


The Plexus Institute has a self-organized group that is reading the book Panarchy edited by Lance Gunderson and C.S.Holling.

You can dowload a chapter of their book at the Resilience Alliance web site or purchase the book and join us at our next call on September 10th at 11 AM Eastern. Check the Plexus website for call-in number.

The book is about ecosystems and humans, but I found it incredibly provocative about transformation in any sphere. One of the most interesting new ideas I gained was the concept of nested cycles--that some aspects of social systems work on very short timeframes--say a microprocess in a meeting--and some things work on very long timeframes--for example, deep structures that program how we see the world. They point out that small changes or shifts at one scale can trigger rapid shifts in other scales.

This made me think that an effective Network Weaver strategy could be to have people practice listening to another person quite different from themselves followed by a quick reflection on their internal reaction. Could this move them from a reactive stance to one of much-increased awareness? Done well and repeated several times, could such quick cycling activity trigger an important shift in deep structures from a we/they rigidity to an appreciation of networked diversity as the provoker of breakthroughs?

Nice Big N Network Paper

Nice new site for networking efforts in Maine. Includes case studies of several networks--what I call big "N" networks to emphasize that they are intentional and at least somewhat formally organized and to differentiate them from small "n" networks which is the lens that looks at all relationships among people, not just those in the formal network.

Of course, we need to be very aware of both lens when we are interested in transformation. And Network Weavers are important in any case. I'd love to see a Community of Practice around network enhancement. Anyone have any ideas about how we could get this going?

Weaving the Electric Grid

It is amazing how many of our current problems come down to the realization that it's the network, the connectivity, that matters. In most situations we know how to fix and enhance the nodes in the network. The links, and their patterns and structure, are the hard problem. How do you weave a better network, regardless of what is being distributed -- knowledge or electricity?

We are making progress in alternative energy production, but we still fail at energy distribution. Windmills and solar energy collectors have made great progress -- we just can't get the energy from where the wind blows and the sun shines to where the great population centers are. To do that requires a well-designed power distribution grid. Many critics of the current grid describe it as "third world" in design, quality and capability. Today's New York Times describes the power distribution problem well.

Above is a network map of a portion of the US electric grid. Life is great if you live in one of the densely connected clusters using electricity generated nearby. Things start to get real complicated if energy needs to transferred from one cluster to another cluster in grid. Distance destroys. Electricity does not flow like information or water or oil. It is not easy to direct, and much electricity is lost to heat when transferred over long distances. On the internet, 100 packets sent from Cleveland all arrive in New York wholly intact -- not so with a 100 MW of electricity generated in Cleveland and sold to NY. Even more electricity would be lost going to Miami, and forget about LA. It makes no sense to transfer electricity made in Cleveland to Los Angeles -- most of it would be lost during the trip.

Not only does physics get in the way, so do local interests. Then you have another power problem -- that of political power. Doing a social network analysis of the electric grid quickly points out key nodes and links that are highly between transfer points on the grid. They become gatekeepers/bottlenecks and either extract a toll for the transfer, or refuse transfer and require the buyer and seller to find a longer route to get from point of generation to point of consumption. And remember -- distance destroys.

Energy independence will take a lot more than just new technology at the point of generation. It will take the design of a much smarter network of distribution. On the other hand, just like we are learning about food production/distribution -- produce & buy local -- we may need to apply that rule to electrcity also.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weaving Journalists

The New York Times publishes an interesting story about "investigative journalists for hire". Via the concept of crowdfunding, a community that wants something investigated, will raise money from many local citizens, each contributing a small amount. This will allow journalists to self-organize around stories that are both interesting and have local grass-roots support.

Cleveland and NE Ohio have a big corruption story brewing, but the local paper -- The Plain Dealer -- is in the middle of offering hundreds of buyouts to reporters and staff. The PD has done a good job of reporting the beginning of the investigation -- rumor had it that 22 reporters were on the case -- but will probably have to reduce their focus as they downsize.

A local grass-roots effort -- Map the Mess -- has sprung up to gather public information about the Cuyahoga County Corruption Scandal. They are a group of local citizens that have day jobs and families that prevent them from fully diving into this intricate story. The effort appears to need some experienced investigative journalists willing to take the reigns and lead. Maybe a triangle needs to be closed between the local MtM folks and the Spot Us community in the NYT article?

Below is one of the early maps of the mess using the "indirect quid pro quo" concept. This map was published by one of the volunteer journalists on the MtM project. The red arrows show "flow of benefit". The diagram uses data taken directly from this Plain Dealer article.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Stay tuned

Stay tuned for our 9 months of workshops on network weaving, sponsored by E4S.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Human Rights Network Mapping

Here is an amazing report on the applications of network mapping, analysis and weaving to assist and facilitate human rights work. It is basically an introductory textbook for all types of applied network analysis, filled with examples and cases. This report is perfect for the beginning practitioner, and researchers/academics not trained in mathematical sociology.

A superb job by Skye Bender-deMoll. The research was sponsored by AAAS -- American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Great Network Weaver

In going through some my old articles, I ran across a tribute to my late friend and colleague, Bob Stambaugh.

He was a network weaver in the corporate world -- a place where "spanning structural holes" is a more common strategy than "closing triangles". Here is the IHRIM Journal article about Bob and his network weaving in the field of Human Resource Information Technology[HRIT].

In the article, notice the difference between the first network map [Figure 1] and the last one [there is a typo, the last map should be Figure 4]. The first map shows Bob's colleagues[blue nodes] in the field of HRIT. The last map shows who Bob introduced to whom -- the triangles he closed amongst his colleagues.

The illustration below is one of the network triangles he closed. Initially I introduced Bob to Gerry around an SNA project, and then Bob introduced Gerry to Karen to write an article for the IHRIM Journal.

Networks are built on productive introductions. Who have you introduced lately?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A new blog: T N T

In addition to my blogging here, I am starting a new blog which will expand beyond "network weaving".

The new blog is named: TNT — The Network Thinker...

TNT is focused on "exploding" old concepts and thinking about economies, organizations, communities and groups.

We will focus on new forms of connectivity and emergence in organizational, community, and social networks and how these new structures lead to resilience, adaptability, agility, and innovation.

I invite everyone to join me on TNT and share your views with what is presented. I hope to see the Comments field host many conversations. All opinions welcome! [No Flames, No Spam]

I have removed posts from this blog that did not focus on Network Weaving and moved them over to TNT. Many of my posts remain here and I will continue to post here under the topics of network weaving, economic development, and community building.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Network Maps

You don't need network mapping software to get groups started with Social Network Analysis. All you need is some large chart paper, a few markers and simple instructions. Make sure that the group has a focus for the network--perhaps some project that they are or want to work on. Here are some sample instructions:

First, draw some circle to represent the members of your group. Next add people that you are already working with on a regular basis on this project and draw lines from you to them. If any of them work together, draw lines to connect them. Then add those people you draw on occasionally. Finally, add people you aren't working with now but would like to to increase the success of your project.

Then have the groups explain their maps to the others. It's amazing the insights they unearth! And how quickly they start thinking more explicitly about relationships in their work.

The pictures above show some of the maps that the groups from the Caribbean UN gathering drew. I'm always amazed at the uniqueness of each map.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Caribbean Jewels

Last week I was in Barbados, one of the many island jewels scatted throughout the azure waters of the Caribbean. The United Nations has hired me to network a group of innovative leaders from 10 different countries. Soon after the participants arrived, we had them complete a form asking about their networks. Not surprisingly, we found that few of the attendees knew anyone else there. Time for some serious Network Weaving!

Several times throughout the workshop, we did a simple exercise called Speed Networking. Each individual shared their answers to questions such as "What excites you about learning about networks?" and "What are your dreams for networking people in the Caribbean Region?" with one other person, then took a turn listening to their partner. This way, people built a connection with 4 other people at the workshop so that they could comfortably go up to them during a break and start a conversation.

The best way that I've found to ensure that networks continue after meetings end is to get people working on a concrete project with others who share a common passion. Drawing on Jack's work, I had everyone in the room identify some issue area that they felt could make a huge difference for the region and that they were willing to work on over the coming year. Once the list of 15 dreams was complete, we could see that the opportunities could be grouped into 4 topic areas. These 4 groups then set to work mapping the network they would need to weave if they were to be successful in making things happen and identifying very specific Opportunity Spaces. Over the next two days, each group charted explicit network building steps they would take when they returned home. Now, one week after the session has ended, discussions are continuing online.

June Holley

Friday, February 22, 2008

Social Network Justice

One of the pleasures of selling social network analysis software and services is seeing what clients do with the new knowledge and tools we provide to them.

Several years ago I started working with an economic justice organization in a major U.S. city. Their focus is on tenant's rights and eliminating slum housing conditions. They had been working with their city attorney gathering information on a group of slumlords that owned apartment buildings that had a long list of continuously unresolved violations that were affecting the health of the tenants and their children.

They wanted a new way to analyze and visualize their data. Since the slumlords were keeping their activities covert, it made sense to uncloak their network using the data my client had gathered along with other available public data. Instead of mapping jihadi terrorists, the economic justice organization would be mapping economic terrorists.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Shared vision & values in networks

One of the more interesting questions I get about social networks is the question of whether we find networks where everyone shares common vision or values.

This does happen in networks that are also communities where people naturally share vision and values. In the many networks that are not also communities, there can be as many versions of vision and values as people in the networks, even in dense networks where many net-members are regularly trading in ideas, influence, and assets.

The observation points to the reality that a network can thrive without common threads throughout the network. It can be a whole and dynamic fabric connected by transactions rather than shared dreams and priorities. Neighborhoods are networks in this way. They are for most people communities of shared place and as such networks where isolation, fragmentation, and cliques are characteristic of the networks.

As with religious communities and corporations, the appearance of shared vision and values don't necessarily guarantee network density, agility, or thivancy.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Revisiting core distinctions

I continue to be amazed at the common confusion of network building with networking. The difference is a significant one. I netbuilding, our intention is to build the community. It is the intention of leader. Networking is the intention to build one's own property.

At the end of the day, networks thrive on both intentions because both foster quality connections and ultimately lead to the kinds of densities and reaching that builds networks and communities.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Accidental conversations

Valdis' brilliant reminders here about the capacity for resilience through net diversity remind me of a point I made in "Accidental Conversations" a few years ago, that we need to practice diversity in our conversations as well.

This is the practice of sparking and nurturing tangents and lateral inquiries in conversations. Lateral inquiries are questions that take the conversation in new directions. Some of the best are questions like who you've seen lately, what you've been reading or listening to lately, what you've seen on or YouTube lately, what you've been up to lately.

These have the potential for a whole vibrant ecology of new discoveries and connections that we could never possibly anticipate, predict, or plan.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Those close by, form a Tie

Birds of a feather flock together... so do entrepreneurs.

Ed Morrison found some interesting research that examines the dense clustering of successful economic neighborhoods/clusters. This research is similar to that of Thomas Allen @ MIT, who studied how engineers and scientists worked, and from that came the Allen Curve, which shows the correlation between distance and frequency of communication in organizations. Both sets of research support what I have observed in social network analysis projects: those close by, form a tie -- and as a result get things done. In the age of the Internet, distance still matters!

From Washington University in St. Louis, News & Information:

"High-tech firms locating close to each other benefit from the proximity," says Barak S. Aharonson, visiting assistant professor of organization and strategy at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. "The potential for frequent face-to-face interaction, serendipitous encounters and easy scrutiny are facilitated by being near firms that are working on similar things and are open to sharing information."

Coffee shop encounters could lead to new business ideas. These "knowledge spillovers" happen more frequently the closer firms are to each other, and dissipate as the distance between companies grows. In fact, Aharonson said, the benefits of agglomeration are strongest within 500 meters (about 0.31 miles) and fade quickly over distances.

"Eventually they are all going to meet in the nearby coffee shop. The basis of agglomerations and the benefit for high tech firms is the flow of knowledge," Aharonson said. "At this point high tech knowledge is almost a public commodity. You can protect it, however through interactions with people — especially those outside the company — it disseminates rapidly. Proximity facilitates face to face interaction and increases the likelihood for knowledge spillovers. These knowledge spillovers enhance the potential creativity of the scientists. Increased creativity leads to new ideas, new products and new businesses. Hence, closely located firms are more likely to benefit from such knowledge spillovers than isolated firms."

Here is the full paper on Knowledge Spillovers.

Via BrewedFreshDaily.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Look what's selling

In today's NY Times, NYU's graduate program's new ad headline/tagline: "I'm earning my Master's, and joining a powerful professional network"

Imagine that! Know-who has finally caught up with know-what and know-how as a differentiating competency in the halls of ivy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The art of NetAwareness

I am continuously innovating in the development of questions that can evoke netawareness (awareness of your own networks) without necessarily drawing visual maps. These questions are useful as steps before or after mapping, addressing the 3 kinds of value in networks - asset, positional, and generative value.

How many networks are you a part of these days?
In which are you more at the core and which more on the periphery?
Are these positions by choice?
What do you consider the more valuable tangible and intangible assets of these networks?
How many steps do you know or think you are from these assets?
What do you think are the more valuable assets you bring to your networks?
How many people know about these assets?
How many people do you think would describe you as a valued collaborator?
What if anything could position you more as a valued collaborator?
Who in your networks might benefit from your introducing them to each other?
Who would you benefit from being introduced to & who could make these introductions?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More on Positional Value

I think Jack is bringing up a really key point when he discusses positional value! A Network Weaver needs to be aware of where he or she is in their network(s). I often have individuals or groups of people from an organization or project take a large piece of paper and start drawing their network. In addition to including all the people they work with, they need to identify the connections between those individuals. They also need to include all of their friends' friends--people their friends have talked about but who the mapper does not really know.

All of this mapping helps people think about their position in the network. When someone comes to them with a dream, are they able to connect that individual to people who have the resources and ideas that will enable that person to turn the dream into reality?

Of course, a much more accurate and complete picture can be obtained by surveying the network and mapping the results, then looking at your individual scores for a range of metrics. But either way, you can start to improve your network position so that you can be a better Network Weaver.

For example, I've been trying to help a wonderful energetic candidate for mayor in our small town access information about what other small towns are doing to support Smart Growth--helping local businesses flourish and encouraging effective approaches to energy conservation. In my head, I started drawing a network map of my network that might provide some help in this arena. I realized that if I was going to be a true Network Weaver for him, I had to spruce up my Smart Growth network! I started calling up some people I had worked with years ago in economic development and quizzed them about their network. As I add these new folks to my network, I'm able to introduce the candidate to some truly effective Smart Growth wizards all around the country.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Network Weaver Checklist

Early on in this blog, I offered a list of characteristcs of network weavers. This list has now been expanded into the Network Weaver Checklist, located on my webpage.

The characteristics described in the checklist go far beyond the art of connecting people to each other, important as that is. For example, one good friend of mine always sees opportunities where others would see problems. If we get caught in a traffic jam, he notes that it gives us more time to talk or to notice the beauty around us! This quality, which we call Opportunity Seeking, is critical to network weaver success. By helping us shift our attention from what's wrong to a sense of possibilities, the network weaver is putting us on the path to effective self-organizing. We start thinking about what we can do and who we can work with to make things happen.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

3 Kinds of Value in Networks

In my work with social network development, we're talking about 3 kinds of value people bring to their networks, that shape the quality of their connections.

Asset value is talent and resources. Positional value is awareness of the network and access to assets. Generative value is the ability and willingness to engage strengths in trust building and collaboration. Strong networks not only have people who bring each of these kinds of value, they have people who bring 2 or 3 kinds of value.

What we refer to as "network weavers" are often people with positional and generative value, and sometimes asset value although asset value is not a requirement for network weavers.

Generative value is the most important of all 3 because it drives the kind of inclusion and connectivity that increases a network's net (pardon the pun) asset and positional value. When the quality of connections deepens, the strength of the network expands.

The good news is that we now know exactly how to help people and networks develop their capacities for generative value.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Reframing Obesity Through Network Weaving

In his July 25th post, Valdis mentioned the social network mapping of obesity networks in The New England Journal of Medicine paper by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler.

One of the most intriguing observations in the paper is that it was not seeing obeisty-related behavior shifts in their friendship networks that correlated with the spread of obesity, but shifts in norms! An infuential person in the friendship network started reframing the groups' attitude about obesity and related topics (eating habits, etc) and this created a dynamic of such power that it's impact shot out 3 steps (to friends of friends of friends).

This has incredible implications for obesity reduction efforts. Working with a network of local organizations, researchers, and foundations, can we identify some key individuals in a set of friendship networks that are ready to change, and help them form a group that would consciously help their networks reframe obesity? These key individuals would be network weavers, helping to build healthier networks.

I think the work of the Frameworks Institute could be very helpful. This group identifies current frameworks and then helps groups create new frameworks that enable individuals to move from those existing frameworks to new, more healthy ones.

Baboon sustainability

"So important are these social skills that it is females with the best social networks, not those most senior in the hierarchy, who leave the most offspring."

From today's Science section in the NY Times

Monday, October 08, 2007

What do you see?

This is a symbolic progression of generative relationships in part of a network. I like to use it to sharpen people's sense making about networks as they grow.

The etiquette of introductions

There is an etiquette to connecting with people we don't know (people in our 2nd and 3rd circles). In conversation with June and Valdis, I find out they know all kinds of people who are potentially interesting or important to me. I don't know how I fit into the world of these relationships they have built trust equity with.

It becomes a matter of courtesy, and core to our trust together, to let them know my intentions to connect with people in their close circles who they have revealed to me. They reveal their cherished connections because they trust that I will act in ways that honor their relationships and ours.

The best scenario is that they make the introductions they feel comfortable making. Of course, this can't apply when I have an accidental conversation with one of their close circle people, only realizing later that we have June's or Valdis' mutual trust in common.

In so-called "social network websites" where I can view someone's "736 closest friends" and start instantly connecting with/spamming them, I am violating introduction etiquette and risking the integrity and continuity of trust in all of the relationships involved.

Every introduction is an act of trust and trustworthiness. If I introduce you to one of my trusted friends or colleagues, it is in trust, that I am making a trustworthy introduction relative to the trust equity in our relationship.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Women leaders

Breakfast conversation today with two amazing women who are innovating in building and connecting intentional communities in Africa and here in the states. I’m helping them use social network science to do this work. We were talking about their experience of being outcasts as leaders in traditional religious communities when male hierarchies dominate.

It raises the question of when are we going to start realizing the legitimacy of women as leaders? When will be start to understand that authentic leadership is the fusion of divine feminine and divine masculine energies? When we become conscious about leadership, we will no longer make gender generalizations about leadership. On that day, women will be embraced for their creativity and men for their sensitivity. On that day, we will finally understand that leadership is a relationship, not a role.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Network Maps In Practice

You may have seen the recent stories in the New York Times that described the wonderful successes of the Pittsburgh Veterans Administration in decreasing the prevalence of the penicillin resistant staph infection (MRSA) that has been responsible for the deaths of perhaps 100,000 patients nationwide. What the story didn’t describe is that much of the lower rates were due to a strategy called Positive Deviance that encourages staff to work across roles to generate dozens of small actions that together bring about reduced rates. Housekeeping staff, in particular, began working with nursing staff on new cleaning strategies, innovative ways to deal with potentially contaminated gowns, etc

Working for Plexus Institute, I recently completed a project mapping and analyzing 4 units in the VAPHS and comparing the network metrics for each unit with the MRSA transmission rates. Read the full report here. We collected surveys from MRSA and nursing staff, who answered a set of questions: “Who did you work with on MRSA prevention strategies prior to the beginning of this Positive Deviance MRSA initiative? Who are you working with now? Who would you like to work with on MRSA prevention projects in the coming year?”

The results were fascinating! The unit with the lowest transmission rate had a network pattern distinctly different from the unit with a high transmission rates. The least successful unit (see the red nodes in the map above) was centralized and isolated. Individuals in the most successful unit (see the greeen nodes in the map), in contrast, were more evenly connected to each other and well-connected to a wide range of outside resources. Nursing was collaborating with the housekeeping staff, ward clerks and even patients in their efforts. Just imagine how the quality of health care could improve if we were able to spark this same innovative and collaborative environment in all hospital settings!

We are hoping to implement network mapping in several other hospitals, mapping at the start of the MRSA prevention project and using the results to move the hospital much more quickly to the kind of Smart Network that encourages effective innovation.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Conscious Becoming, excerpt


Look at the history of any culture or nation,
and find that whole groups and communities
can be collectively conscious or unaware.

And it only takes a small group
of conscious people to
transform collective unawareness.
It’s happened before,
it will happen again and again.

With no representatives or voting,
thousands of small,
individual and collective acts
of conscious people with faith in their gifts
give shape to a world
worthy of everyone’s trust and respect.

When people are conscious,
without imposed rules or consensus,
they know how to create beauty together.

I'm back

This is my prodigal return to the NetWeaving blog, post promise to Valdis and June in our agreement to step up our engagement here. The only excuse for my absence that I like is my being otherwise pre, and post, occupied with my 6th book that is now launched ( and has already won great fanhood from Valdis and my close friends whose unconditional love makes it impossible to know if they really like it, or they're just about the love.

So back to the matter at hand. My social network focus has been and will continue to be on the quality of connections in networks. Valdis and June are genius at the questions of who's now connected and about what and who could and should be connected and about what.

My interest in client projects is all about building the right kind of trust, abundance perspective, and strengths engagement that allows high quality connections. It's actually the embryonic focus that sparked my consulting and coaching career 30 years ago when I was doing my thesis research on the phenomenology of conversations in interpersonal systems. So my place in the June-Valdis lineup is third in the batting order. Once people are connected to the right people for the right purposes, I help them get and stay smarter together - which is the natural byproduct of trust, abundance perspective, and the mutual engagement of strengths. In the civic space and organizations, these are competencies to be developed.

Feels good to be back. More later. Promise.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A lost link...

Steve "Habib" Rose
Nov. 12, 1957 - Sept. 26, 2007

Habib, our friend and colleague, passed away yesterday.

He was the biggest fan of this blog, a blogger himself, and often commented on our posts. He worked with June on several projects and was one of our most excited and motivated students of network mapping. He was a true network weaver, and we will miss him in many ways.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Ingenuity Festival - July 19-22 - Cleveland, Ohio
Innovation happens at the intersection... of two or more different, yet similar, groups.


  • one technology meets another
  • one discipline meets another
  • one department meets another
  • one network meets another
  • one neighborhood meets another
  • the forest meets the meadow
  • the ocean meets the shore.

The intersection of Art and Technology will be highlighted at Cleveland's Ingenuity Festival next week. Art, dance, music, theater and technology remixed through a long weekend: July 19th - 22nd.

I was first introduced to the intersection of art and technology many years ago when a client told me, after a long examination of a social network map of his organization, that my network diagrams reminded him of Jackson Pollock paintings! I took that as a compliment, and the art/tech seed was planted for me. Hmmm... I thought... analytic data visualizations as art... could be!

As a prelude to the Ingenuity Festival, Cleveland State University is holding a public forum on Creativity and Technology. Come hear more about Innovation at the Intersections!

UPDATE: For a more detailed examination of Innovation at the Intersections come hear Ed Morrison and Valdis Krebs at the Synergy Speaker's Forum, Saturday, July 21st @ Noon during the Ingenuity Festival.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Companion Planting

Attended the Defrag conference at Lorain County Community College [LCCC] these past two days. What a wonderful facility LCCC has!

Just like the last Defrag, I had an ah-ha moment at this one. This moment came from one of the other attendees -- Soren H. We were discussing connections in regional economies after my presentation. He said, "I think what we need is something akin to 'companion planting', after all isn't an economy a lot like an ecosystem?" Economy = Ecosystem? Sure! "But what is companion planting?" I inquired. He explained that it is a concept from organic gardening -- plants can benefit from having certain other plants close by in the garden. You can create the right mix to benefit the whole garden.

Of course! An economy that has the right mix of connected talent will work in the same way. Each benefits from having the other nearby resulting in creative combinations and win-win scenarios while the garden/economy benefits the most from the combinations and connections.

Which combinationations and connections are best for your regional economy?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Network Weavers in Action

The most exciting part of my consulting this last year has been realizing how many "natural" network weavers are already at work in communities and organizations. Listening to their stories, I'm discovering on a much deeper level what it means to be a network weaver.

For example, Jon Lloyd was trying to tackle MRSA, the deadly resistent staph infection that has been spreading through hospital systems. As a type of network weaver we call an Innovation Seeker, Jon went looking beyond the usual sources for insights that would help hospitals in Western Pennsylvania deal with MRSA. He found a Fast Company article that told about the Sternin's, a couple that had developed a strategy called Postitive Deviance in their efforts to end starvation among children in Vietnam. It helps organizations identify what's working and then enables people to self-organize to experiment and spread successes. He also pulled in staff of Plexus Institute, which is helping people apply complexity theory to solve intractable problems.

Quite a leap from MRSA to Vietnam and complexity science--but that's what Innovation Seekers do: they see connections and patterns in unlikely places. The application of Positive Deviance in this new setting has dramatically lowered MRSA rates in the Pittsburgh Veterans Administration Hospital System in just over a year. In addition, it's unleashing the creativity of housekeeping staff and patients, who are coming up with many of the most powerful solutions!

For more on the Pittsburgh experiments, see the latest issue of Emerging at Plexus Institute's site.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Speaking of trust

Thought leader, entrepreneur and management academic, Karen Stephenson, talks about the “quantum theory of trust” in organizations, which reflects that the collective cognitive abilities of organizations depends on the presence of trust in its networks of relationships.

As she says, “People have at their very fingertips, at the tips of their brains, tremendous amounts of tacit knowledge, which are not captured in our computer systems or on paper. Trust is the utility through which this knowledge flows.”

Or one might say, people who don’t share trust are less intelligent together; people who share trust are smarter together.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Earned and unearned trust

When we're helping build trust in network relationships, we need to work from two distinctions: earned and unearned trust.

Unearned trust has to do with like and likeness. We naturally trust people like us and people we like. Closing triangles in ways that builds trust means helping people quickly find reasons to like each other and find ways in which they are already similar - in tastes, likes and dislikes, passions, perspectives, agendas, experience, values, and so on.

Earned trust has to do with making and keeping promises. Help people make and keep promises early on in order to help earned trust equity build.

After all, trust is the basis of speed and creativity.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The happiness/unhappiness continuum

Valdis and I have been having this conversation about the quality of relational transactions in networks. We're thinking outside the usual box of the continuum from win-win to lose-lose. In any set of transactions, there are 6 possible outcomes.

A. Happy-Happy: both of us are happy with the outcomes
B. Happy-Tolerably unhappy: one of us is happy while the other is unhappy at acceptable levels
C. Tolerably unhappy-Tolerably unhappy: both of us unhappy at acceptable levels
D. Happy-Intolerably unhappy: one of us is happy while the other is happy at unacceptable levels
E. Tolerably unhappy-Intolerably unhappy: one of us unhappy at acceptable levels while the other is unhappy at unacceptable levels
F. Intolerably unhappy-Intolerable unhappy: both of us are unhappy at unacceptable levels

Obviously, A is the best outcome. B and C are OK in the short run or occasionally but in the long run cannot support the relationship. D, E, and F are to be avoided because they are unsustainable in the short and long run.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

In the New Year, I resolve to...

weave better networks... for myself and others.

But, be careful whose advice you follow! Here are two contrasting pieces of advice emanating from Chicago.

First, Betsy Hart of the Chicago Sun Times relates her experience...

It used to make me crazy when people would invite my then-husband and me over to dinner, only to discover that another couple we'd never met had been included because the hosts thought we would ''just love these folks.''

Whether we did or not, we'd have to spend the whole night making small talk and asking, ''So, how old are your kids?'' I was at a stage in life where I didn't want to learn how old someone's kids were. I just wanted to relax with people I already knew.

Just being with people you know is easy and safe -- no effort, nor risk required. But it gets you a dull network -- everyone knows everyone else, everyone agrees with everyone else, and everyone hears what is going on at the same time. This is OK for friendship networks, but not good for business networks, nor for those of us who like a little variety in our friends and opportunities in our networks.

Ron Burt, Professor of Sociology and Strategy at the University of Chicago, is one of the top experts on social capital in the world. His advice is different. He suggests we focus on those who are different, rather than on those we are already connected to.

They have broader access to information because of their diverse contacts. That means they are more often aware of new opportunities, and aware earlier than their peers.

Below is a diagram from Ron's work that shows the difference in the two types of networks. James has chosen the easy redundant strategy, while Robert has chosen the more difficult diverse contacts strategy. As Ron goes on to explain in this short article [PDF], it is Robert who has the advantage because of his network structure. Robert weaves a better network from the same starting point as James -- he is a network entrepreneur.

Enjoy a productive New Year in your entrepreneurial network!

UPDATE: Here is an excellent article on building business networks from the Harvard Business Review [PDF]. Though this article focuses on corporate managers, the advice is useful for those working in the not-for-profit sector and for community builders. Take note of their advice on the network change required when moving from being a manager to being a leader.

Notice how the HBR avice in building a strategic network meshes with Burt's advice on building a diverse network.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Connections, Cognition and Ca$h

Good things are happening in the Cuyahoga Valley.

People and organizations are connecting, and money is pouring in. Connections, Cognition, and Cash, the necessary base for a good Innovation Soup, are being cooked in a pot that has been empty too long.

A standing room only crowd [eager for good news?] was at the press conference where the Third Frontier investments in the area were announced. My first alma mater, Cleveland State University, partnered with 32 others for their winning grant on sensor systems -- weave that network! Other Cuyahoga Valley winners included the University of Akron, Swagelok, GrafTech, Kent Displays, Cleveland Clinic [20 collaborators!], Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals.

I am working with Currere and the Cuyahoga Valley Initiaive to map the networks of collaborative activity in the valley. After doing this type of work all around the world, it is nice to be working in my own backyard! If you work in the Cuyahoga Valley, or collaborate with those that do, please fill out our network survey.

Ask any chef, and s/he will tell you that a good soup needs a good base. An economic chef will tell you that the prime ingredients for a good economic soup includes connecting smart people and giving them funds and freedom to develop their ideas -- and then letting the mixture self-organize under the right conditions.

Mmmm... good!

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Today I attended a conference on digital media at the Cleveland Institute of Art -- affectionately called "CIA" on the North Shore. A great group of people showed up.

But I could not "get" the title of the conference -- defrag??? It is something I used to do to my Windows computers when they would slow down after several months of use. So I looked up "defrag" on the web...

A process whereby parts of data files on all segments of a computer hard disk are taken from their fragmented state (with parts of files spread all over the disk), and grouped together in complete-file segments. This makes it quicker for applications to find the files they need and frees up disk space, making the computer run more efficiently.

Key phrases: "parts spread all over", "grouped together", "make it quicker to find", "run more efficiently"

Oh, I get it now... "defrag" is the geek's way of saying "networkweaving". Defragging and networkweaving accomplish the same goal -- they take a complex distribution of information and knowledge and re-organize it for more efficient processing. Of course in defragging human systems we are not just looking for efficiency alone, but also discovery, innovation and growth.

Maybe our new elevator spiel should be: "We defrag organizations and communities". What do you think?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The power of the network

Riffing of our Plexus Institute conference call yesterday: when we want to create a broader set of connections around any project we have on our plate, we need to help people get clear on our goals, short and long term. The clearer they are on our goals, the easier it is to connect us to people and resources we cannot predict or anticipate.

This is the power of knowing and knitting any network: access to resources we cannot predict or anticipate.

Monday, November 27, 2006


June and I chatted this morning about the centrality of innovation in our network weaving work. Everyone we work with is after one or both kinds of change: scaling what you're already doing, and doing something new (innovation).

Network weaving is particularly powerful with innovation because we're connecting people with the kind of diversity that is always essential to the R&D of innovation. Diversity of ideas, perspectives, intentions, resources, access, and opportunities. The more we connect with people outside our personal (1st) circle, the diversity becomes more and more guaranteed.

Of course learning how to connect these people in collaboration toward innovation is a social technology that we will continue to offer in our workshops

Saturday, November 25, 2006

WWW - World Wide Weaving

Local network weaving is great, but global network weaving is better!

I am blogging from Riga, Latvia, where this week I participated in some great meetings and some great introductions.

Above is a simple network map of the organizations involved. The links show who has collaborated with whom before this week. All of the organizations, except for, are from the EU -- most from Latvia. After having worked with a great group of new media artists @ RIXC and some brilliant mathematicians and computer guys @ SIS, I knew it was time for some introductions. All of the above organizations/groups were represented at the meeting in the Old Town section of Riga. One introduction led to another, and soon plans were being formulated for future projects, sharing technology, new conferences, teaching classes, and introductions to possible sources of finance.

The network below depicts the group after the week, with the green links revealing productive introductions that were made and are currently being pursued for collaboration and innovation.

Compare the "closed triangles" between the two network diagrams... see how connectivity grows?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Making Introductions

patternHunter observes...

One of the challenges with "social networking" sites is that most are more correctly "social linking" sites.

...they are all like bad parties where everyone is gathered in small circles with their backs to anyone new. One of the benefits of a good host/hostess (other than attracting an interesting crowd) is his/her ability to introduce individuals to other individuals who are likely to share some kind of interest. To my knowledge, no social networking site is particularly good at making introductions and most do not even try.

Right on. We train networkweavers to make useful & actionable introductions.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Location, location, location

In an adaptive, networked environment, the primacy of location moves from geography to netography.

In the netography, it matters whether we're in the core or the periphery. Location in the core puts us in a prime position to be guardian of the network's core principles, values, assets, and relationships. Location in the periphery puts us in a prime position to be boundary spanners, inter-network weavers and the shameless idea butterflies and bumblebees. Moving from and between core and periphery in any network changes the scope of our opportunities for strategic serendipity.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Expanding our scope through our networks

I continue to get good traction from the distinction of our 3 circles. Our first circle includes people we know well - we and they have a "relationship." Our second circle includes people we know of, but don't have a relationship with. Our second circle people are usually our first circle's first circle. Third circle people are those we don't even know exist, yet we are nonetheless connected to in 2 steps - we know someone (in our first circle) who knows someone (in our second circle) who know them (in our third circle).

Increasing the scope of new knowledge, ideas, or resources can happen in at least 3 ways:

1. Interacting more with first circle people who we only interact with infrequently
2. Interacting more with people in our second circle
3. Interacting more with people in our third circle

Friday, September 22, 2006

Welcome to our Network!

We had a productive day today, getting our web site up, preparing for our next conference, and accomplishing quite a bit around Jack's dining room table -- proving once again that "a day face-to-face is worth a thousand emails!"

Thanks to Steve Goldberg for stopping by and taking our picture.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Trust Equation 1.0 !

This is a 1.0 version of a formula for measuring trust in relationships. It's intended to use a formula for assessing the complex and intangible dynamic of trust.

It basically says that trust is the multiplication of weighted expectations and delivery on expectations, divided by the multiplication of expectation clarity and usefulness of feedback. It's actually based on intensive work I've done recently in client organizations on trust building between individuals, managers and departments.

And here's the process:

1. In the case of trust between two people, each person lists their 5 top expectations of each other in categories including what they depend on from each other in the areas of information, help, and outcomes. Then for each, they identify on a 1-5 scale (low-high) how important each expectation is to them - this creates a list of weighted expectations. These scores are added for a total weighted expectation score.

2. Then each person assesses how well (again on the 1-5 scale) the other usually delivers on each of these expectations. The scores are totalled for a delivery score. The two numerator scores are then multiplied for a total top number.

3. Then the other person creates the denominator number. If I'm assessing June's performance against my weighted expectations for the numerator of the equation, June is doing the denominator. She assesses on the 1-5 scale how clearly I usually communicate each of these top 5 expectations. Then she assesses on the 1-5 scale, the usefulness of feedback she usually gets from me on her delivery on these expectations. Then these two figures are added for a total and multiplied for my denominator score. I do the same for her denominator score.

4. Then the differences are calculated for a total trust score.

So now we get have a conversation about questions like:

Is there an "ideal" score range?
Are there other variables the formula needs to consider?
If the point of the process is the conversation, how are results best interpreted?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

NOLA Networks

Many people think that all post-Katrina recovery efforts are fragmented and failing. Although many of the formal organizations are falling over each other, and over the debris that is still in the streets, community networks are self-organizing and emerging in New Orleans and elsewhere in the devastated region.

A month ago, I got an email from Sarah who is working with ThinkNOLA. She inquired...

Through the New Orleans Wiki we've documented significant social relationships and organizational connections between board members in the key recovery agencies, both governmental and quasi-governmental. Do you have any suggestions for producing visual representations of this information?

I said, "Sure, put your data into this link/relationship format, send it to me, and I will map it for you." BTW, this is a great use of WIKI technology -- a common place for people to store/edit/update the relationships/flows they find.

We went through several iterations of data and soon had some maps. The network above is a combination of all 8 relationships we mapped. It shows how over 1000 organizations and individuals are connected in various recovery projects.

The NOLA network has grown to the 'multiple hubs' stage that we described in this white paper: Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving [PDF]. ThinkNOLA and their colleagues are examining the first set of maps to see where they are -- who is connected, who is not and who should be. They will then weave the network where necessary.

An iterative process: know the net, knit the net... repeat.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Building Community Through Innovation in Belize or Anywhere

I got an email today from a dear friend who is promoting sustainable development in small remote Mayan villages in Belize. She has done a marvelous job, working with villagers to set up a computer center for the village children (who are now computer wizards!), using donated computers from folks in Athens, Ohio. She's also helped mostly young women in the village set up income generating businesses, gathered up a container full of books from U.S. friends to stock the new high school's library, and helped raise money for disbaled children to get needed operatons. All this while respecting the culture and encouraging local leadership.

Now she is raising funds to set up an Innovation Fund that will encourage people in the villages to initiate small, doable but innovative and collaborative projects for their communities. The projects must match the seed funds with their own labor, and need to include young people and a diversity of villagers. I'm willing to match any donation you make dollar for dollar up to $500.00! To learn more about this delightful project check out Interamerican InterAction's web site. If you send a donation, put "Innovation Fund" on the check so I'll know to match it!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Smart Networks Workshop

Weaving Smart Networks: Building Capacity for Positive Change in Organizations and Communities will be held in Washington, DC on October 12-13, 2006. The workshop is intended people already engaged in change and innovation who want to learn to apply networking strategies to increase the scale and impact of their activities.

For more information, see the full brochure with registration form at Plexus Institute's web site

Jack, June and Valdis will all be participating.

For more information, email or

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Strengths-Based Approach to Key Roles in the Creation of Change

When it comes to making change in communities and organizations, there are a few key roles that make change possible.

One group is the group of innovators, visionaries, and entrepreneurs. These are the people who have the power of dreams.

Another is the group of formal leaders who have the power to develop people's capacity for change. These are the people who have the power of development.

Another is the group of informal leaders who also develop capacity for change - but all through invitation. These are the people who have the power of facilitation.

There is the group of managers who have the formal community/organizational responsibility and resources to engage people in making changes happen. They are the people who have the power of assignment.

Finally, there is the group of network weavers who can be in any of these three groups and who facilitate new relationships to serve new outcomes related to the changes taking place. They are the people who have the power of connecting.

What's interesting and important to understand is that all five roles can overlap and all five roles are necessary for successful change.

One person can play one or more or all roles while another can and will play only one of these roles. There are several factors determining how many roles people can play at a time:
  • The scope of the formal power and access to resources they have
  • Their strengths in terms of knowledge and skills
  • The strength of their personal networks
  • Their commitment to change & willingness to engage in it
  • Their personal bandwidth of time and energy

One of the core elements that makes any of these roles effective is that they are approached from a strengths-based perspective.

This perspective is characterized by an emphasis on knowing and engaging people's strengths - what and who they do know, what they can do, what they do have, what they do want, what's working for them and what they're achieving and why.

The other aspect is to re-focus people when conditions and events cause them too naturally get distracted with their deficiencies - what and who they don't know, what they can't do, what they don't have, what they don't want, what's not working and what they're not achieving and why.

This is an excerpt from an upcoming book, "Dream Space" (2007 Jack Ricchiuto)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Strategic network-focused design

Interesting discussion recently with a health care organization about designing new programs. They liked the idea of different strategies for people at the cores and peripheries of specific ethnic market segments - such as here on the South Coast of the Great Lakes - with the Chinese, Hispanic, and Indian communities/networks.

For people at the cores of these communities, programs need to be designed with an eye to managing their traditions. For people at the peripheries, programs can be more "mainstreamed" in look, feel, and function design.

Monday, July 24, 2006

From a "quiet crisis"...

... to a very loud "You Suck!"


The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the last major paper in town, used to write about the "quiet crisis" in NE Ohio -- how the economy was fading, and no one was doing anything about it. Sunday, they took the gloves off. BAM! A right hook to formal Economic Development [fED] in Cleveland.

As usual the mainstream media, gets the story, but gets it late. The local grapevine was questioning the mission and performance of these ED organizations years ago. The whispering grew louder and has now been sufficiently amplified for the whole region to hear.

I am glad the mirror has been cleaned off to reflect more accurately.

All is not lost in Cleveland. Just like after a forest fire, new sprouts emerge and start a new ecosystem. Entrepreneurship is on the move in NE Ohio. From many bootapped home-based businesses to locally funded start-ups, the economy is still alive. But, no large companies [yet], to replace the auto, steel and rubber industries that have died, or move south to retire.

When we lived in Los Angeles, one of the things that amazed me was all of the entrepreneurial activity there. I worked for some very good corporations in LA [Toyota, TRW, and Disney] and everywhere I went my colleagues were either planning a start-up, or actually had one working in their garage [no basements there]. I started my software business in a garage in Redondo Beach, CA.

That activity is starting to appear here in Cleveland. The sprouts are peeking through. The fEDs don't see them yet -- and actually step on quite a few. But the roots are down and the young vegetation keeps growing. A new forest is growing in Cleveland!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

How Do We Track Networks of the Gift Economy?

One of the powerful dynamics of successful entrepreneurial networks is the use of complex reciprocity (or what anthropologists call a gift economy) to keep knowledge and resources circulating in a way that results in extraordinary economic value. The dynamic starts with network weavers sharing generously—providing important information about trends, markets, people and so forth. Entrepreneurs quickly translate this information into economic gain: they buy a piece of used equipment for much less than they had expected, they draw on the know-how of an experienced entrepreneur to develop superior products, or they gain entrée into a large grocery chain very quickly because someone shares the name of their key contact.

Next, staff encourage entrepreneurs to share generously among themselves, knowing that this behavior primes the pump of exchange and results in much more knowledge and resource sharing by others back to them. It is amazing how quickly the transition to this type of mutual sharing behavior occurs, even though entrepreneurs continue to compete fiercely with each other in many ways.

Network researchers, how do we measure this kind of complex flow? How do we track the shifts in values and behaviors that take place in a move to a gift economy? At what point does a phase shift take place, transforming the whole economic system?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The intriguing intersection between complexity and networks: killer hens or cooperative cluckers?

One of the most exciting frontiers of this decade is the place where Social Network Analysis and Complexity Science are cross fertilizing. That's where we Network Weaving bloggers love to hang out!

Valdis just sent an email pointing to the proceeddings from the 6th International Conference on Complexity. Check it out--especially David Sloan Wilson's conversation about group evolution. Turns out that if you only breed the most productive chicken, you end up with a henhouse of agressive killers. You have much better success if you select all the hens in the most productive henhouse to breed. In this case, you're selecting for the cooperative skills of the entire group. Believe me, undergirding this kind of cooperation is a Smart Network!

If you are interested in the intersection of complexity and networks, you might want to consider joining the Plexus Institute -- only $100 a year to stay in touch with the latest research and practice in the field. An action group is organizing a series of events during the coming year to encourage the continued exploration of networks and complexity. If you are interested in becoming involved, just let us know!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How Accidental Conversations Create a Car Full of Zucchini

One of the critical characteristics of Smart Networks is that they have expanding, very productive peripheries. If we look at where we’ve gotten some of the breakthrough ideas in our lives, we’d see that our peripheries are often linked into our core networks from what Jack calls accidental conversations.

At a National Business Incubation Association luncheon many years ago, I sat down next to an "older blonde with poofy hair" . Although I made some stupid assumptions, thinking the conversation would be of no value, I had a delightful accidental conversation. She shared with me a remarkable innovation she had been developing—a Kitchen Incubator, a licensed processing facility where entrepreneurs can rent the use of equipment to make their products. At ACEnet, we had been struggling for a way to help low-income farmers add value to their produce. Light bulbs started flashing — this is a way to help hundreds of farmers become food entrepreneurs!

ACEnet grabbed this idea, developed their own unique adaptation, made their Kitchen Incubator a huge success, and then shared their success with other low-income communities. The result: over 100 Kitchen Incubators around the country, helping thousands of low-income individuals start food processing businesses.

We would love to hear stories from you. Tell the rest of us about an accidental conversation you had that not only expanded your periphery but led to a breakthrough innovation. What is it that enables us to sort through the dozens of accidental conversations we might have every week and discover the seed that will sprout into a prolific zucchini bush, with its seemingly unending bounty of squash?

Why do people in Appalachia lock their cars?
To keep their neighbors from filling them with excess zucchini!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Social network bandwidth

Interesting conversation today with friend and colleague Tom Carlson who's fast becoming a raving social network fan. Actually, it's always in our blood until we discover the framework that unleashes it.

Anyway, we were talking about rating the quality of our connections on a -10 to +10 scale. As it turns out, each of us, given everything on our personal plates, have finite bandwidth of time and energy we can give to the quality of our connections. It is our experience that our strong +9 and 10 connections often require more care and feeding than our more superficial +2 and 3 connections.

So we can visualize having a bandwidth of, say, 50 points on any given week on personal and professional scales. If we have two +9's, that leaves 32 points to distribute among maybe a few of +4's and 5's and a handful of +2's and 3's.

If people want to close triangles in our behalf, we may want to be intentional about honoring both the core and perifery opportunities in our personal networks. On the whole, keeping a balance of diversity and continuity serves us all.

I am also considering that there are other principles at play and it may be interesting to hold assumptions lightly, in the spirit of dialogue.

Maybe there's a bell curve of time and energy/effort along the quality continuum from 0 to +10, where investment is less required at the ends and more at the middle! Maybe up in the 9's and 10's, the trust equity makes this more self-sustaining, so we have the benefit of having many high quality connections, ranging in interaction frequencies from daily to once in a blue moon.

Just putting it out there for the dialogue, now that I am far more clear on what I don't know : )

Friday, June 23, 2006

Network Weaving 101

One of the basic building blocks of weaving networks is "closing of triangles". A triangle exists between three people in a social network. An "open triangle" is where there is an opportunity to introduce two people by the third person who knows them both -- it is a triangle with one missing link like in the diagram immediately below. A "closed triangle" is where all three people know each other.

Here we see our friend and colleague Ed Morrison, of iOpen, connected to two of his clients -- the economic development folks in both Lexington, KY and Oklahoma City, OK. He knows each of these groups, but they do not know each other. Much could be learned if both of these groups shared their economic development experiences with each other -- innovation happens at the intersections.

But you can't introduce groups to groups, or organizations to organizations -- it works better by introducing people to people. So, Ed picked two leaders from each group to close the triangle. He picked Cynthia Reid at the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce[OKC] and Lynda Brabowski of Commerce Lexington[CLX]. This triangle is illustrated below.

When Lynda expressed a desire to Ed for CLX to visit another region that they could learn from, Ed immediately knew the answer -- visit OKC, who previously had faced similar issues and handled them very well. Ed, also knew which introduction to make -- a network weaver needs to know WHOM to connect by knowing the people, the groups, and the dynamics involved in the connections that are being made. The closed triangle -- after Ed's introduction -- is shown below.

This was not the end of this weaving opportunity. Ed accompanied the CLX folks on their visit with OKC. During the trip he closed a few more triangles. Ed introduced the CLX group to two of the key architects of the economic blossoming in Oklahoma City, Ron Norrick -- the former mayor that started the effort, and Burns Hargis a key OKC board member. Those closed triangles are below.

The cool thing about closing triangles is that anyone can do it, and you do not need anyone's permission to do it! Close triangles around you wherever and whenever you see an opportunity. You and your community will benefit.

Just do it!

Here is Ed's write-up of the above -- connecting of two regions.

I was first tipped off to this by Brewed Fresh Daily -- where Cleveland and NEO goes to find out what is REALLY happening!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cleveland Entrepreneurs & Their Colleagues

Entrepreneurs for Sustainability[E4S] is a NE Ohio network of entrepreneurs and change agents from business, government, academia and non-profit sectors who are implementing sustainability principles. They celebrated the Open House of their new work/meeting space this week. Included in that celebration was a network map of almost 600 NE Ohio entrepreneurs and their colleagues who run sustainable businesses in the Cleveland-Akron-Canton-Youngstown Ohio region.

As with most network maps, this one [printed wall size], soon had a crowd around it pointing, laughing, taking notes & pictures, and discussing. Several people, who did not find themselves on the map, quickly filled out a network survey form which were judiciously placed below the map. Entrepreneurs, and their support organizations, are connected on the map if they share information, advice, or ideas with each other in the execution of their business. [The map above does not contain the names of the entrepreneurs, nor their businesses.]

The three purple nodes in the center of the diagram are Holly Harlan, Courtney DeOreo, and Stephanie Strong -- the leaders of E4S. They are all excellent network weavers. Holly, the founder of E4S, and one of the top network weavers in NE Ohio, is fun to watch at a gathering as she makes one key introduction after another.

E4S is not just growing in size, it is growing in connectivity!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Regional Innovation Networks Workshop

June 29 & 30
Open Source Economic Development: New Practices and Tools for Economic Development - an invigorating curriculum for leaders to create and lead collaborations, map and enhance regional networks, jumpstart innovation, engage in “strategic doing” and measure results.

Workshop Presenters
Ed Morrison
June Holley
Valdis Krebs
Jack Ricchiuto

Time & Place
Dates: Thursday, June 29 & Friday, June 30
Time: 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
Place: Baldwin Wallace College
Berea, Ohio
Strosacker Hall College Union

Open Source Economic Development is a new approach that teaches you how to develop the open economic networks that drive innovation. Register

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Closing triangles, naturally

In training with a few hundred health care staff this week focused on relationship building, we had them closing triangles, after a few minutes of context about why it's important and their brainstorm on the keys to effective introductions. People did a great job - a testament to our intrinsic capacity for doing just that!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

It's all about the relationships

The work we do with organizations and communities introduces many of them for the first time to the value of social capital. It is a whole new idea that the quality of connections between people are at least as valuable to the bottom and top lines as financial and other forms of capital. The most disturbing part of this reality is that social capital can't be engineered, managed, traded, or controlled.

It can only be nurtured, as in that which is done in gardening.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Trust in social networks

Maybe it was because of my lens, but I noticed that trust was one of the threads running through the talks and panel in yesterday's KM conference. One of the pieces I introduced in my 10 minutes of fame in the conference was the 4 core elements of trust building in networks and communities:

> Alignment - common beliefs & values
> Expansiveness - introductions to others in the network
> Interbeing - mutual promise making & keeping
> Productivity - making new impacts, innovations together

The role of network weaver is to see where opportunities exist to help people build stronger trust in their connections. Why? Because trust drives innovation.

Knowledge management

June, Valdis, and I participated in a day long Cleveland KM cluster conference yesterday on social and value networks and tools. It was a strong agenda with solid affirmation that the real gold in "knowledge management" is in the unleashing of networks.

It's an acknowledgement that knowledge in organizations and communities grows and serves in the context of relationships. It's value that doesn't reside in individual people, functions, or leaders. Like the brain, it only has value when connected.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ghana sunshine

I’m still trying to figure out what I loved about Ghana. Unlike most trips, I came back from there energized and feeling nurtured, not drained.

The key is in the interactions. Everywhere I went, people bathed me in sunshine with their smiles and friendly acknowledgements. What was going on? It’s so elusive. All I know is that the quality of interaction was different. The smiles and hellos felt like a gift, but with no expectation that I owed anything back.

What is fascinating is that this gift opened something in me, and I found this same kind of easy acknowledging of others flowing out of me, and somehow I found myself feeling very relaxed and at ease in the world.

So much simple magic about relationships!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Network Papers

I just posted some things I have written on networks and/or entrepreneurship on my web page:

The first one is an example of how I took census and other government data and converted it into a set of graphs that tell a story about why entrepreneurship is so important and why entrepreneurs have such a hard time surviving and growing.

The next one--Transforming Your Regional Economy Through Uncertainty and Surprise: Learning from Network Theory, Complexity Science and the Field--I did for a talk at the Prigogine Center in Texas. A different version was published in Uncertainty and Surprise in Complex Systems, 2005.

Building a Regional Entrepreneurship Network: A Guide to Action is a "How To" workbook for people interested in creating regional networks.

I'll post more soon...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Want to learn more?

Just wanted to let people know that they can learn more about Smart Networks and Network Weaving at a workshop in Cleveland on Friday May 19th that also includes Verna Allen of value networks fame. Valdis, Jack and I will be presenting together.

Also, the three of us will be leading a much more in-depth 2-day workshop on building economic networks at Baldwin Wallace.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Regional Innovation Economies

As I travel around the country--and now the world--I'm starting to see some very interesting and provocative economic shifts--part real, part still potential.

In both rural areas such as Appalachian Ohio and in urban centers such as Accra in Ghana, entrepreneurship is everywhere. it feels like an increasing number of what used to be LOCAL entrepreneurs (having only local markets) are networking to become REGIONAL entrepreneurs serving sets of urban markets around them--often crossing state or national boundaries. This is happening through regional innovation networks that are just starting to emerge. I think we all need to examine these closely and figure out ways to help them form all over the world.

What are regional innovation networks? From the fragmentary evidence we have so far, they seem to consist of
*entrepreneurial networks supported by creative NGOs or non-profits,
*regional catalysts and facilitators who work with those entrepreneurs to develop new regional distribution and marketing vehicles,
*consumers that value and pay for authentic regional services and products,
*a set of innovation and/or commercialization services that enable all types of businesses to move to high-value niches in the market,
*and a culture of innovation--that includes governmental policies that support and encourage regionalism.

Why are regional innovation networks so important? If an artisan in Appalachia or Ghana figures out ways to work with others to get their products to larger, but still close at hand, markets, they will start expanding and creating more jobs. And, by helping entrepreneurs focus on innovative niches, those jobs tend to be higher paying and higher quality.

Has anyone else been seeing signs that regional innovation economies are emerging? How can we weave the networks that are the foundation of such transformation?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The quality of connections

The more I observe and reflect on the quality of connections in community networks, the more interested I become in the question of how to assess for this quality.

Of course, interaction frequency will remain a baseline indicating quality connections, but what beyond that?

I'm thinking there are at least these 4 indicators.

Alignment - how much do people have in common?
Productivity - how much new value does the relationship create?
Introductions - how many valuable introductions does the relationship produce?
Learning - how much new learning do people gain from each other and collaboratively?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Network Weaving in West Africa

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been in Ghana working with a United Nations project that is bringing together West Africans to weave a regional network.

First, I have to say that Ghana is a wonderful and exciting place. The country is increasingly stable, and entreprenurship is alive along every street, where everything from handcarved beds to toilet paper are being hawked by local--usually very young--entrepreneurs. Reminds me of China when I was there in 1994 for the Womens Conference and saw the first signs of what was to become the China of today.

The people I met were wonderfully friendly and accepting--virtually everyone you pass will make eye contact and give you a greeting and a smile. I can't tell you how good it feels to be surrounded by this all day. If you have a chance, I urge you to visit. Many of the trees are a riot of bloom, and are filled with a chorus of birds trilling delightful melodies.

The challenge of weaving a regional network here is great--West African speak French, English or Portugeuse plus their tribal languages, so communication is difficult. But the potential of regional markets and a regional capacity to solve problems are huge motivators to collaboration.

More later.....

Monday, May 01, 2006

Cow pies, cow ties

I'm sitting with Valdis at Talkies who's been contacted for a project of marsupial mapping. I flinched until he explains a project a client of his once did mapping cows. The data was based on which cows spend the most time eating next to others, since eating promiximity correllates to strong social bovine ties.

It brings up the whole idea that behavioral mapping is the cleanest ... so to speak.

Characteristics of Natural Network Weavers

Network Weavers are individuals who take responsibility for creating healthy networks, what we call Smart Networks.

Anyone can learn to be a Network Weaver but natural Network Weavers have at least some of the following characteristics. Are you a natural Network Weaver?

1. Opportunity seeking: sees opportunities everywhere
2. Loves to connect people to each other
3. Able to unearth resources of all types and kinds
4. Able to remember many names and resources
5. Able to dialogue easily with people and get them to disclose information
6. Comfortable with uncertainty but persistent in making things happen
7. Able to learn from experience; decides next step after reflecting on previous step
8. Optimistic
9. Able to see when something doesn’t work and moves on
10. Has a big vision but sees the importance of taking small steps
11. Likes to get to know people with different perspectives and from different backgrounds
12. Listens well
13. Asks a lot of questions
14. Sees patterns—notices patterns in the network: where there is energy, where there is isolation, who interacts with whom, etc

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Connecting Places

Some places you go... you always meet someone you know. And even better, someone you should know, but don't yet!

These places are magnetic because people know they will meet "birds of feather" there -- people with overlapping interests, but with diverse networks. ACEnet's kitchen incubator is one such place. It mixes and matches people from SE Ohio who are involved, or want to be, in the local food industry.

Another connecting place is the Chicago Mosaic School. On a Sunday afternoon, local mosaic artists stop in to work on their projects, chat, gossip, see what's new, and help each other out. There they mix with artists from other cities who are in town taking classes at the school -- combining similar interests, different networks.

The Executive Director of the School, Karen Ami, is a natural network weaver. She connects mosaic artists and clients both nationally and internationally. People are attracted to Karen for her knowledge and expertise, and also for her ability to connect you to the right other person. Natural network weavers are like that... they attract people, lots of people, who wish to be connected.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Regional Networks

We are seeing more and more interest in "regional economies" all over the world. One of the key players in regional economics are the mayors of the cities in that region. How are the mayors in your region connected? Are they exchanging ideas? Are they assisting each other? Or are they chasing smokestacks and high tech labs, and only competing with each other?

Above is a network map of mayors from a small country in the European Union. The population of this country is around 5 million, about the size of typical economic region. The nodes, representing each mayor, are colored by political party.

Two things are immediately apparent:
1) This is a well connected network -- no isolates, no fragments, no bottlenecks. Measuring the network, we find a short average path length -- very little delay and distortion in communication flows.
2) There is no political polarization, as currently found in the U.S. -- various colors link to various other colors.

Because of the cross-polination of knowledge and ideas, along efficient communication paths, I am betting that these mayors give their region a strong advantage.

Network Mapping

The first step in Network Weaving is mapping the existing networks in your organization/community/region.

• What are our strengths?
• What are our weaknesses?
• Where are the disconnects?
• Who are the Connectors?
• Who are the Mavens?
• Who is in the clusters?
• How open/closed is our network?
• How have we progressed since last year?

Just like doctors use x-rays and CAT scans to see, and make sense of, what is happening in the complex human organism, we use network x-rays to map and measure what is happening in complex human communities like organizations, industries and regional economies.

Entrepreneurs 4 Sustainability

E4S, one of the premier entrepreneurial learning communities in Ohio [if not nationally!], held their annual network building meeting at the Great Lakes Brewing Company this week. A diverse group of attendees -- suits to sandals -- heard great bootstrap stories, did speed-networking led by Grant Marquit, and heard June and Valdis talk about network weaving in other places. During the meeting, Holly Harlan -- founder of E4S, publicly closed some triangles. She introduced several people to each other, pointing out why introduction will be fruitful -- she is working at the top levels of Jack's Introduction Pyramid. Wonderful modeling, Holly!

Two E4S members examine how the dots are connected [and could be connected] on the entrepreneurial network maps...

Network Weaving in West Africa

Next week I'll be flying to Ghana to work on a United Nations project. They will be bringing together non-profit and government leaders from 15 West African countries to learn how to weave network and work together.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Collaboration Pyramid

1 / Intracommunity assessment
People within communities work together to create a common understanding of the opportunity landscapes. We’re talking here about 5 types of communities:

a. people with needs/hopes
b. people with new ideas
c. people with talent/expertise
d. people with resources/funding
e. people with social/political/economic legitimizing power

At Level 1, people with needs and hopes work together with other people with needs and hopes; people with new ideas work together with other people with new ideas, and so on. All collaborations happen within each community.

2 / Intercommunity assessment
People across communities work together to create a common understanding of the opportunity landscapes. For example at Level 2, you find collaborations between people with needs/hopes working with people with new ideas. People with funding/resources working with people with talent/

3 / Intracommunity dreaming
People within communities collaborate in visioning, prioritizing, and planning relative to discovered collaboration opportunities.

4 / Intercommunity dreaming
People across communities collaborate in visioning, prioritizing, and planning relative to discovered collaboration opportunities.

5 / Select-invite R&D project
People within or across communities work together in invitation-specific projects

6 / Open R&D project
People within or across communities work together in open invitation projects

7 / Shared ownership/governance of new enterprise
Participants of R&D projects that create a new enterprise share ownership and/or governance. New enterprises include new civic programs, organizations, services.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Our 3 circles

This is a graphic we use to show our 3 circles of connections in our networks.

Our 1st circle are people we know well.
In our 2nd circle are people we know but not well - they are our 1st circle people's 1st circle
In our 3rd circle are people we don't know at all, but who are known by people in our 1st and 2nd circles.

The further out we go, the more we discover people with more differences than ourselves, which in our world, means a goldmine of new possibilities!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Planet: One introduction at a time

Networks build through introductions and not all introductions are equal. They are distinguished by the quality of the introduction.

If people are not naturally connection-prone, we need to spend more time facilitating connection. The more we are a presence in the introduction, the more people gain from the trust each has with us.

Introductions are an art yet conceptually simple: it's all about helping people discover the value in each other.

How do social and economic networks the size of a planet grow? As Valdis says: one introduction at a time.

Building Smart Networks

The Network Weaving experience of ACEnet is described in a white paper [PDF] by Valdis and June. The paper steps you through the network weaving process, from beginning to vibrant network. The paper was published in the Non-Profit Quarterly in 2005 and was chosen as one of the best articles of the year in NPQ.

In the latest version of the paper, we add a new idea from Jack -- the Introduction Pyramid [PDF]. This explains how one-on-one introductions are a key part of weaving the network and how they follow a scale of involvement and probablity of success.