September 11, 2009

Shining the Light on Community Weavers

I was perusing my favorite blogs over the weekend and found a piece on the power of networking weaving on the Network Weaving blog that I want to share with my fellow big thinkers on small grants, and riff on a bit from a grassroots grantmaking perspective.

These days I read everything I can find about social networks - especially those on the ground social networks that are the backbone of communities that are powerful, resilient and good places to live. I love two things about this piece. First, it is succinct and almost jargon free - the perfect piece to print and share with grantmaking committees and grantees as fodder for discussion. I love the clear theory of change statement about social networks:

One of the principles in social network science is that when people are
better connected, they are more individually and collectively productive,
cohesive, and resilient.From a social network perspective, every social problem
is a symptom of fragmentation in networks. Everything we call a problem today is
a manifestation of unengaged citizens, siloed institutions, divisive politics,
and fragmented industries. Few new possibilities can occur in a world of
disconnections. When connections thrive, new possibilities thrive.Where people
are thriving in the world today, their social networks are the fabric of their
thrivancy. When people are better connected in social networks, they become more of a community.

Clear, concise, useful.

Second, it focuses on the one thing that has been shown to accelerate the development of network connections - the presence of someone with a gift for network weaving.

Here where the idea of network weaving meets the practicality of grassroots grantmaking.

Where in the groups that you fund can you spot the network weavers - people who:
  1. Have an uncanny talent for spotting the assets and opportunities (tangible or intangible, shared or isolated, well-engaged or unengaged talents, resources, funds, space, expertise, and knowledge) in the community and, and are always on the job of asset and opportunity spotting;
  2. Are constantly learning about the dreams of people in the network - the passions inspiring what people are striving to create and pursue;
  3. Are are constantly introducing and connecting people with complementary dreams and assets.

In the asset based community development world's words, these are the capacity finders and mobilizers in the community. These are the people who are in a perpetual and natural state of conducting mental asset inventories and and moving assets from the sidelines into action. They are the people who are in the business of building and nurturing the dense spider web of relationships that make the community stronger. And they may not hold office or embrace the title "leader".

Here is what I would love to happen:

For those grassroots grantmakers who are who are reading this - and for others who don't identify with the grassroots grantmaking terminology but who are working from a big thinking on small grants perspective - click on the link above, read the piece, hit "print" and take this to your next meeting to seed some interesting discussion.

Talk about network weavers. Identify the ones that you can spot among your current grantees and what they are doing that tells you that they are indeed network weavers. Talk about the questions that you are asking in your grant applications that provide an opening for people in communities to tell you about the network weavers in their midst and how their weaving is part of the idea that they are presenting. Talk about the leadership training that you offer - ask yourself if it is helping to develop network weavers or if it is unintentionally trying to transform network weavers into project managers, deadline meeters or outcome generators. Talk about how you can lift up and honor these special people for the important role that they play in creating stronger and more resilient communities - and how they can mentor others who have that same "glass half full" orientation and love for spotting and connecting.

And then let me know how the conversation goes and where it leads you.

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