Every month Network Weaver has a virtual Consultants Gathering. In August’s gathering, the consultants were asked to share stories about their own successful and fulfilling network experiences.
Below are three stories from Network Weaver consultants in response to this question:
“What is a story of a time that a network offered you value and you were excited enough to prioritize engagement with that network? What were the conditions that enabled this?
From Yasmin Yonis
At one point some years ago, I was actively engaged with my Truman Scholars Network — listserv posts, meet ups, attending conferences. I was engaged because it was a network of people who shared the same values and same goals as I did—a career in public service—and were passionate about helping each other reach those goals. There was a sense of community and solidarity. We had all survived the infamous Truman selection process and we were in this together. Trumans were in every career field, many of them higher up, and could help you secure connections with others, internships, jobs, and provide help during the graduate admission process. I found some of my best friends in this network.
From Sara Shapiro-Plevan
In November 2017, a network of women who had been victims of gender bias or sexual harassment in the workplace, specifically in Jewish communal settings (synagogues, Jewish schools, and Jewish organizations) began to coalesce. Some of us met in a large group in late November and began to self-organize in small groups around particular areas of urgency or interest. For some of us, current events were enough to motivate us to gather, to talk together, and to learn to listen and respond to each other differently. For others, having been victims or caring for victims propelled us to engage with the network and connect with others. Current events swirling around us were no doubt also a motivating factor that we all used to catalyze our engagement with this developing network and our desire to weave the network into something tighter.
We also knew that without the power that lived within this network–predominantly female and with some men who were allies–we would continue to see a culture of complaint without action emerge, and this would be ultimately unsatisfying. Small spots of action began to emerge within the network, through the relationships that came about inside the network amongst trusted network members. Those outside the network were not deemed as trustworthy as those inside–not trustworthy enough to take part in various actions or to hold the stories of those inside the network.
Half a year has passed and real action has emerged from the group. Ideas which were born inside the network have become professional training for people in organizations on the periphery as the changes the network is seeking are becoming diffused. Those trainings are using network models to make sure that they do not stay as trainings alone but create a strong community of partners who can get the work done after they are trained to make change. Advocates from inside the network are moving from the core to the periphery to carry the messages of this work and the value and need for change out into the world and acting as powerful bridges.
Certainly, this is based on current events. When the world can see women as equal and workplaces as equitable, maybe these networks that are being born and coalescing will disappear. But women are taking the reins here and giving birth to these networks, shaping them and making sure that they are strong, using network principles even where they do not know them, and evolving them into something truly captivating.
I myself found two friends inside this network who wanted to work on a project with me, and we have woven our own network as a part of the larger one around hiring as a specific focus, gathering professionals who have been impacted specifically by issues connected to hiring processes. The energy that has been generated inside this has surprised me–it has not been anger alone but has been directed toward change. Where it could have been anger, the network managed to, as a living and breathing entity, steer toward growth and positivity and appreciation, and we are all energized toward a future that can be about connection and equity over disconnect and imbalance.
From Joni Bryan
I was fortunate enough during my undergraduate work to be matched with a network weaver extraordinaire as a mentor, Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew. Although my networking had been effective previously, it was almost entirely intuitive, and she added science and strategy to it. She also trusted me enough to introduce me to those in her network who could help, or who I could help, and modeled network weaving for me. She introduced me to the idea of social capital and leveraging relationships to make change. Years later, she is still a mentor and a friend to me, and has taught me that every relationship has value and how to strategically align my community to make change. I started a nonprofit community after that, Amplify, and today it is 5 years old and 5000+ members strong – we all rely on each other for the collective knowledge and skills we could never have alone!
More stories to come in Wednesday’s blog post.