About ten years ago, I was working with a non-profit organization in the field of sustainability and social change, and was invited by a funder to a conversation with about 15 other organizations to explore about how we could align our work and consider working as a network.
From that initial experience of finding how to connect and amplify the work of many organizations, I have had the opportunity with New Directions Collaborative to work as a facilitator of a range of network initiatives across issues such as climate action, local food systems, smart growth, racial equity, and educational attainment.
It has been a fascinating learning process of seeing what is needed to work in these networked ways for the greatest impact. One of my favorite aspects is learning to work with the idea of “emergence,” where we create conditions for new relationships, flows of information, deeper understandings, and innovative ideas to arise out of the whole group in ways we couldn’t have predicted.
There is an art to this kind of collaborating and I have learned from diverse sources of ideas and methods, e.g., from others in this Network Weaver community and other fields, such as Art of Hosting. Many traditional leadership programs do not train people in how to “work as part of an ecosystem.” Last fall, I decided to distill the approaches and tools I was regularly using in my work into a series of training workshops that I offered in person in New Hampshire. The response was so encouraging and I had requests to offer on-line workshops so more people could participate.
Starting in February, I will host three workshops.
- The first focuses on how to design meetings to generate multiple benefits, such as pooling our knowledge for collective sensemaking, strengthening relationships and spurring micro-collaborations.
- The second explores the leadership skills and qualities needed to host collaborative work.
- The third workshop builds skills in how to work as part of a larger system and help that system align and be more effective. All of these will be held on Zoom and be interactive, where you get to experience of participatory meeting methods, and see how they can work on line as well.