One of the most enjoyable activities as visiting scholar at the Packard Foundation is being able to participate in think tanks on a topic. Most of the ones that I have attended have been convened by Monitor Institute as part of their network practice.
Both today and tomorrow, I've been participating in a convening with funders and others to discuss networks. If you want to follow along, we're using the #networkf tag on Twitter. What's nice to see is that everyone is much more comfortable with live tweeting, being more transparent. The guidelines are no live tweeting of confidential information!
In fact, one of the presenters mentioned how she had discovered the tag from the last meeting and was able to follow along. I find this useful to be able to connect with subject matter experts outside the room to ask questions or bounce ideas. And even though the responses are 140 characters, it can stimulate your thinking.
The focus of the day was on the life cycles of networks and Theory of Change Archetypes for Networks. As I was taking notes, I was thinking about the whole question of how and where selection of social media and online collaboration and communications fits - and the bigger picture. Much higher than the balcony, up about 10,000 feet where you can put messy social media tools and network behavior into neat boxes.
Sanjeev Khagram, iScale, took us through a draft white paper on Network Life Cycle. The paper will be published later next month, but it stimulated an incredible conversation. For me, it helped me think more clearly about relating network life cycle to the network's selection of online collaboration and communications - both those for private conversations and those for more open conversations.
It made me think of Nancy White, Etienne Wenger, and John Smith's work with online communities of practice. As Sanjeev was presenting, I wondered if the communities of practice orientation might work for a network? I asked Nancy White on Twitter and her answer got me doodling on Powerpoint (see above).
We also had a presentation and discussion on catalyzing networks from Claire Reineit The big aha moment for me was the use of social networking analysis as an evaluation tool to look at relationships and collaboration over time.
Steve Downs from Robert Wood Johnson shared some reflections on a foundation-wide effort to become a web 2.0 Philanthropy and working in a network mindset. It generated an insightful discussion about crowdsourcing for innovation and social change, organizational culture issues, and more.