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Steve Waddell

Seems to me that "network weaver" is an awful lot like "community organizer". In my experience, both of these are good core role descriptions for people who lead networks, but I find that in the global multi-stakeholder ones that I work with, those people are still torn by "administering" and "managing" frames...and in fact, all three frames are important for them.

Rachael Barrett

Need to footnote Deleuze and Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus and give them the well deserved credit for the rhizome concept. Their work is poetry and the precursor for how we think about social networks, etc.

Will Hull - United Cerebral Palsy eCommunications/eDevelopment Specialist

Wonderful post. It is rather ironic that I am in my final two classes at George Mason University pursuing a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management that I would be discussing the very topic of network weaving in the context of third party governance.

One thing I would like to add to this discussion is the relative importance that a "Birds of a Feather" mentality can do to a network. Sure, it strengthens the bonds of commonality and builds trust through bonding social capital, but it can also be detrimental to the network by creating a barrier to entry for those who are not similar to those at the central nodes of the network. Those on the periphery will view the "cliques," if you will, as dissimilar to themselves and as such will likely view the network as one in which their contributions will not be effective in collaborating across the network.

For instance, the sheer amount of knowledge that Carie Lewis might hold while interacting with those who know what she is talking about will facilitate conversation, but with those who don't have anywhere near her level of experience with social media might find it intimidating and quite possibly they might fear contributing because what they might contribute my be considered fundamental and quite possibly an operating assumption for those like Carie Lewis.

A true network weaver builds the network as a central node and then trains others to become central nodes themselves who, in turn train others to be central nodes themselves. This frees up the original network weaver to focus on the periphery and generating more central nodes, etc. At least that is what I am picking up from the academic journal article that I read about network weaving.

I do like the exponential potential that network weaving presents and as such will not discount its promise.

Great post.

oh my. lots of meat here. I'll start with the comments first.

Community organizer vs. Network weaver. A community is, in my, mind a subset of a network. It is, usually, a collection(ive) of people how are banded together with some tie, often emotional/political, to a certain purpose or professional goal/interest. A network is a far more disparate and potential disaggregated group of people who are interlinked in any number of ways. A community organizer would try to bring people together within a certain kind of interest (think guild) and a network weaver would be trying to make interconnections in smaller pieces, one interest here and a connection there... trying to put people together for the overall strength of their connections and their network... not to acheived any predescribed goal.

Hurray Deleuze and Guattari. There is some great poetry there... but i don't think this particular description relies on their work, rhizomes were around long before them... :) I think Beth has referenced them before in connection with some of my own with with rhizome theory.

- and now to the post -
In my mind, (and this is the first that i read about it) it's difficult to think of a network weaver as someone who is trying to achieve a particular goal. They strenghten ties for their own sake, moving between people and making connections so that they are better able to do many things... without particular outcomes. This is something we see on twitter all the time... indeed, that's how i got here, Beth does this kind of work all the time "hey, what you said sounds like what she said" kinda stuff that creates new bonds.

There is a sense in which these interconnections allow us to confirm our intuitions about things and refine our ideas with people outside of our specific contexts... this interconnection... an assessment of the weave if you'll pardon the stretch of the metaphor, might be seen as a new way of validating knowledge ( In this sense network weaving IS learning for the weaver and weavie

A few flags i found interesting, "to allow your community to be 'more' than it is" by more are we thinking 'better' or 'increase'. One of the dangers of this kind of weaving is seeing more as better...

I like the idea of saying that it is not a job. It can't be. It has no identifiable purpose, no real assessment of value. A community organizer can have touchstones for success, network weaving is identifiable on twitter... i can say "Beth Kanter is a network weaver" but not sure what job would that be.

The rhizome. I love the rhizome as a metaphor. it's disconnected, it's dirty. it's hard to kill. (i don't like it as a weed in my garden) it's also difficult to focus, it tends to take up any free space you offer it and it makes it difficult for an individual plant to stand out.

I think that the rhizome is a very nice model for learning... the network weaver and particular network weavers... the commitment to making connections between ideas where you find them, of tying things together of multiplying connections just because you think that contributes to more learning... that encourages people to find new ways to create knowledge amongst themselves. it encourages growth. It adds solidity to innovation by allowing multiple people from different context to temper and test ideas as they form.

Chris Jones

Great ideas throughout. Thanks for the post Beth.

I agree with Dave. Where to start !?

I have been reading the organizational design work by Karen Stephenson, via an analysis by Bas Reus .. where several 'connectors' play key roles in an organizational Heterarchy (Quantum Theory of Trust, 2006). Without repeating it all here, the paper describes an optimized hybrid of Hierarchical & Networked organizations, which Stephenson believes could be optimal for a real organization.

To me, it seems June's concept of a 'network weaver' and Stephenson's description of 'connectors' are cut from the same cloth.

So much so, I ask: should we challenge the premise that a network weaver can't be a defined role? If organizations start behaving like networks for the sharing of insights, why wouldn't they have control points, signal boosters, and similar value-adding nodes, just like a technology network? Roles defined by Stephenson include: hubs, gatekeepers, and pulse-takers .. clear parallels.

'Weavers' sound to me like designers & architects. In a technology network, humans design the topology, so the components are not (yet!) self-organizing. But in a complex adaptive social system, like an organization, with the right mix of diversity & engagement, and the right amount of 'slack' (permission to experiment), self-organizing networks can in fact form & weave themselves. I'm seeing it happen on Twitter as we speak.

As discussions on this thread continue, I've offered to provide Bas some real world examples, from both corporate-based (inside the firewall) and Twitter-based (outside the firewall) self-organized networks of stakeholders. I see several exciting threads running through these discussions. At the core? Collaborative innovation. Personally, I am a major proponent of 'learning culture', and I'll be posting more on this soon.

Yes, Dave, Twitter is absolutely a great case study for all of this. We can test our theories with the same resources we're using to discover & build them.

It's intriguing to see related concepts emerge from multiple places. I'd been following many of you based on insights posted to #complexity. Would enjoy the chance to continue comparing notes.

June Holley

It's exciting to see all the excellent thinking on the Network Weaver role: it's clearly time to tease out all the nuances. The way I originally conceived of the role was that Network Weavers were more than connectors - important as that is. Since I'm all about self-organizing networks where people are continually identifying something that needs to get done and pulling together others and resources to do it, I've identified a second role of Network Weaver, called Project Coordinator, that helps catalyze and coordinate and share about these self-organized actions.

I also see that sometimes "n"etworks form into "N"etwork where people come together around a particular focus and are usually meeting together to figure out what to do. This kind of Network needs facilitation-- a Network Facilitator. I've also seen the role of Network Guardian, where people fly above the network and notice what it needs: communication systems, training and/or peer learning groups for network weavers, new ways for money to flow to encourage self-organizing, etc.

Others have suggested the role of broker - someone who brings together two previously isolated or separated worlds.

I think right now is the time to identify and explore a lot of different aspects of being a Network Weaver. This is all about new kinds of leadership, new ways of being in the world. Maybe in another year we might want to see if we can settle on some common language but it feels like right now is time for blossoming!

June Holley

I also wanted to say just a word on rhizomatic. I feel this metaphor is so powerful! It's all about thinking more about what we are doing and how we are doing it. There are ways that every act can be designed so that it is much more likely to have multiple outcome or go viral. For example, a local restaurant here in Athens Ohio was structure as a worker cooperative: all the workers had a chance to be a manager (they had a lot of managers) and everyone needed to learn to read financial statements and learn basic cooperative skills. As a result, many of the worker-owners left and started new businesses, resulting in a dense mat of interesting establishments that helped build a vibrant local economy. And, in a further rhizomatic act, locally-owned restaurants (some owned by former worker-owners) formed a local restaurant association that started buying local produce from area gardeners who then became serious farm businesses, and so forth.

How often do we think about how we are doing what we are doing? Instead of rushing to get things done, Bill Aal of Seattle says we might consider Slow Organizing, where we spend time helping people involved in projects build Network Weaver and other skills so that they are more effective at and more likely to become an initiator of action and learning. And, how can our actions create new pools of opportunity for others?


Beth -

Love this post. This is certainly how I've envisioned the work of NTEN, even before we had this vocabulary. It's what makes our community so special - we feed each other in a variety of ways, at all different levels. As Dave said, I love the rhizome metaphor for networks. I feel that it's my role, and the role of our community members, to expose those roots and make explicit all the implicit ways we are connected.

I especially like to think about this in the context of social media - how it has made the role of the network weaver harder and easier at the same time. Facilitating and feeding the connections is much easier, but we have to do it on a very different scale. It's a challenge.

I am definitely game to explore the concept more at the 10NTC. I think it would be great to do a workshop with lots of physical moving about to explore the concept more. Perhaps we can convince June to join us? :)

Hi All,
its great to see some deeper thinking about networks and organizing. The Slow Organizing theme, riffing of of the Slow Food and Slow Money memes is about creating space for creativity to amplify in self organizing systems, encouraging action ~reflection /feedback mechanisms to emerge in networks.

we are also working with the mycorrhizal network model, in which events are like the mushrooms that are the visible manifestations of rich networks, which then spread their spores to seed new networks etc.

How does this all contribute to helping self organizing in network structures?


just village life .. only a big deal to people who live in cities ...

and from another pov, it is only collective consciousness .. only a bid deal to people who don't know much about minds ...

got to love the western mind, thinks every little thing is suuuch a big discovery

Hi all. The first post about network weaving per June Holley was very interesting - but the idea that this could be a "rich" environment struck me as a really odd use of the term. In the end, face to face contact matters most and this type of experience IS rich. My thoughts go to the MoveOn model of organizing coffees during the presidential campaign. Invited guests could be assembled pretty quickly but I think, like myself, people did not attend in the end because it was too anonymous: what if they didn't want to know or like the folks at the gathering? I think network weaving could point to a individual (perhaps a "host") who then wants to cultivate geographically-near potential colleagues.

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