Meeting June Holley for the first time!
Last week, as part of my work at the Packard Foundation as visiting scholar I had the opportunity to participate in a face-to-face convening of the "Network of Network Funders," facilitated by the Monitor Institute. The most exciting moment for me was to meet June Holley face-to-face - the guru of network weaving.
Network weavers are people who intentionally and informally - and often serendipitously - weave new and richer connections between and among people, groups, and entities in networks. They also weave new and richer connections between among networks.
Note that the definition uses the plural form, network weavers versus network weaver. That was one of my ah ha moments from June's presentation and subsequent discussion. You want everyone in your network to do network weaving on different levels. Take a look at June Holley's list of characteristics and you'll quickly see that network weavers wear a variety hats - networkers, project coordinators, facilitators, and guardians. I might also add "technology stewards."
June urged us not to think narrowly about Network Weaving as a specific job description, but rather as a role. "You don't hire someone to be a network weaver. You want someone who is open to learning and a good listener and can teach others network weaving skills. You want to spread the capacity throughout the network." You extend networking weaving skills by using a peer learning model not a traditional training model.
June Holley used the metaphor of "Being Rhizomatic" and explains it as where every bud contains the nourishment for other buds. She used an image of a single tree. A single tree can be cut down or die from lack of water. But in a bamboo forest (a unique rhizome) -- the trees are connected through the roots and if one tree gets nutrients and supports others.
The image that came to mind for me was from the movie Fantasia and the scene in The Sorcerer's Apprentice when many brooms come to life from the one chopped up broom. (Go 5:49 in the clip)
Source: Flickr Photos
June Holley emphasized the importance of self-organizing, she said "Network weavers catalyze small joint actions between groups of two or three people. She talked about the importance of online collaboration and project management tools as a way to support those self-organized actions. (My single next action step is to set up a sand box with June and others to explore some of these tools in the context of network weaving.)
She also introduced a new (to me) concept: Network Guardian. This is someone who isn't doing the day-to-day work, but thinks about how the network could be more than it is. They think about the network structure, evaluation, communication, training, opportunities, and reflection.
June also described some of the tasks that network weaving may include. One might be drawing the map of the network's connections and facilitating a discussion about what the network looks like. Angus Parker from Wiser Earth recently blogged about this in "How To Weave A Tighter Network."
One connection I made is that nonprofit social media strategists like Carie Lewis from the Human Society, Danielle Brigida, NWF, Wendy Harman from the Red Cross, Apollo Gonzalez from NDRC, Constance DeCherney from Planned Parenthood, and others are doing some form of network weaving - whether it be their Facebook or Twitter networks or possibly internally between departments. It also made me wonder whether there might be a hunger for a professional peer group of social media network weavers.
I took that idea into a small peer assist session. My question: Is there a network of peers who do network weaving for nonprofits to support external communications? For starters, I'm going to ask Holly Ross at NTEN that we have a birds of a feather table at the NTC10 or if I get ambitious I will sign up to lead an affinity group meeting. As we discussed this, I realized that perhaps the frame was too small.
Maybe we need to do some field building for nonprofit network weavers in general as well as consultants who work with Network weavers. And while this would include those who work for nonprofits on social media strategy for external communications, it would include network weavers more broadly. There might be a sub-group or interest area on technology. Maybe this conversations could take place on an existing community of practice (Iscale).
- Are you practicing network weaving skills in your nonprofit or network?
- What are you learning about network weaving?
- What inspires you about network weaving potential?