There are over 1.4 million tax-exempt non-profits in the United States, many of them working on the hard-to-shift systemic problems of our society, such as racism, poverty, immigrant rights, access to food and healthcare, inequitable education systems, and climate change.
Systems change and networks
But many of those organizations have realized these problems are extraordinarily complex. Solving these problems requires shifting entire systems, something that is not possible for a single organization to accomplish.
We are seeing a rapid increase in the number of networks forming to work on problems collaboratively.
As a result, we are seeing a rapid increase in the number of networks forming to work on problems collaboratively. Many of these are having truly impressive results:
Network Practice is underdeveloped
The problem, as I see it, is that the field of network practice has not kept up with this dramatic increase in networks.
The field of network practice has not kept up with this dramatic increase in networks.
All too many networks are floundering, struggling with knowing how best to support network leadership, how to structure their network, and how to organize action. Too many try to adapt an organizational frame and find that network growth and innovation are inhibited.
An organization is an organization is an organization. There are ample books, associations, training programs and consultants available, so that setting up a new nonprofit is fairly straightforward.
But networks come in many shapes and sizes, and recipe books aren’t as useful for this type of entity. There are only a handful of network consultants in the entire country, only a few books on network formation, and little research has been done on the most effective structures and operations for networks. Add to this the fact that only a few foundations are supporting networks, and even fewer are supporting the development of the field.
Let’s support networks together!
Over the course of the coming year, I hope to gather a group of individuals and foundations who understand the extraordinary potential of networks and care passionately about developing the support and knowledge that is needed so that all networks can be transformational and system shifting.
I plan to write blog posts at least weekly about every aspect of network practice I work on and send these posts out via an enewsletter. I hope I can convince some of you to contribute to this blog as well. Just respond to this post and I will explain how this can be done.
I also will be developing and offering a wide range of free materials and low-cost modules (will usually include a video, powerpoint, and activity sheets) during the coming months.
I am hoping that you will help think through the development of a platform that encourages networks everywhere to share what they have learned and where people interested in learning collaboratively can find each other.
Let us know what challenges you have faced in forming and operating a network and what would help you with those challenges.
I invite you to respond to this post with your thoughts, comments and expressions of interest in this project. Let us know what challenges you have faced in forming and operating a network and what would help you with those challenges. What would you like to learn? Explore with others?
We can only make progress on this together!