We’re at a critical moment.
Intersecting crises of people and planet are creating climate disasters, technological disruption, perpetuating inequities, global pandemics. It can feel daunting.
But it can also feel hopeful – when you look at the thousands of networks around the globe working tirelessly every day, preserving biodiversity, transforming education, changing food systems, fostering sustainable tourism, protecting children’s rights, supporting girls activism…
The reality is though, most of these networks remain siloed, reinventing the wheel while not being given the space to learn from each others’ challenges and failures – and struggling to achieve their ambitious visions due to resource and capacity constraints.
In Southern Africa, the word Fito means “joining diverse pieces or people to make one powerful effort”.
Networks go by many names – movements, communities of practice, ecosystems, cooperatives, alumni communities. Individually, they reach hundreds or thousands of people through their work.
But when brought together, they can reach millions.
The Fito Network is working to unite some of the most creative and committed practitioners, thinkers, consultants, government leaders, and funders – from dozens of countries across all continents – to learn, co-create, and advocate on the global stage.
We serve as a:
- Matchmaking hub to address common questions, identify synergetic opportunities, nurture emergent ideas, and enhance skills
- Exchange community for filling knowledge gaps, challenging assumptions, trying out cutting-edge practices, and supporting wellbeing
- Ideas incubator facilitating the piloting and sharing out of innovative and equitable technologies, convening formats, and cross-network transformational change strategies (see some of what we’ve already piloted)
- Advocacy platform valorizing networks as indispensable catalysts for social change – through pooling evidence, boosting visibility, and shifting funding structures and paradigms
Imagine if we brought together hundreds of networks working in one sector, all with overlapping goals but slightly different approaches and geographical focus, to explore collaborating for transformational change.
In our work, we’ve come to learn that:
- Complex systems change can only happen through structured and facilitated collaboration. This collaboration almost never happens organically and requires intentional input.
- Collaborative learning ecosystems are critical for improving and sharing change strategies – but to thrive, these need intentional facilitation, accessible knowledge systems, and resources to include diverse stakeholders.
- Networks and movements can be extremely effective mechanisms for rapidly rippling change, provided dedicated processes, leadership, and trusted spaces are in place.
We think convening networks is one of the highest potentials we have to change our societies today – and one of our biggest gaps.
Through combining vast pools of knowledge, resources, and reach across hundreds of movements, cooperatives, and collaborative groups, we can co-design multifaceted solutions, scale success patterns to new communities, directly increase funding opportunities, strengthen leadership skills for collaborative learning and action, and mobilize millions to change habits and policies.
To enable this to happen, though, we need to invest in intentional design, inclusive convening, and guided facilitation.
You’re invited to an experiment
Mosaics are beautiful, intricate collections of diverse pieces that make a collective, beautiful whole. To develop them, you need a shared vision, and careful coordination across many actors. They can take many years to create – but when done, they can touch the hearts and minds of millions across centuries.
Over many years, we have carefully designed a holistic approach with communities like the Bosch Alumni Network and Ignite Philanthropy that brings together networks and funders to engage in deep connection, vast discovery, collaborative experimentation, and collective advocacy.
This “journey” combines field mapping, co-learning, piloting collective solutions, developing collaborative working structures, collating data for collective evidence bases, and working closely with funders to try out new practices and shift approaches.
It looks somewhat like this:
- Connecting & learning (9-12 months): building relationships and trust, deepening peer learning, co-creating purpose and vision, setting up collective structures
- Aligning & piloting (12-18 months): deepening understanding of the system, co-developing change theories, “testing” collaboration through mini-action
- Action & expansion (3-5 years): launch long-term collective projects, expand cycles of learning and sharing, invite and engage broader ecosystem in learning and collaboration.
What could we achieve together?
This model is not unprecedented. In the 1980’s for example, networks and movements came together to combine diverse strategies to move the HIV/AIDS epidemic from a marginalized, ignored disease to a globally-supported collaborative effort.
The possibilities are endless – here is only a small sample of ideas we can envision (and, we’re quite limited in our capacity to do so!):
- 25 million young people engage in collaborative projects piloting new educational methods with teachers and peers
- 30% of European ministries of migration have adopted inclusive, holistic strategies for refugee integration
- Hundreds of communities in Africa and Asia are granted the rights to adopt local biodiversity protection strategies that were shared across networks
- Global campaigns mobilize 100,000’s of small-scale farmers to advocate for shifting food habits and sustainable consumption
- Identify synergies for knowledge sharing and peer support
- Map avenues for larger collaborative work
- Build bridges between practitioners and funders
We are starting with pilots in these sectors, but if you are interested in hosting a networks mosaic or obstacle course in another sector, let us know – email firstname.lastname@example.org!