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NETWORKS: SOME CORE PRINCIPLES Richard Bennett. NETWORKS Why? When? What? but mainly… How?

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Presentation on theme: "NETWORKS: SOME CORE PRINCIPLES Richard Bennett. NETWORKS Why? When? What? but mainly… How?"— Presentation transcript:


2 NETWORKS Why? When? What? but mainly… How?


4 Learning from/with each other: becoming excellent at what we do Influencing collectively: much more powerful Economies of scale: collective buying –Training –Skilled people –Even office supplies…

5 NETWORKS WHEN? Any time, but especially… Uncertainty –New situations –Changing environment –Threats to our effectiveness or values –when the Big Red Fish is biggest Big influencing opportunities –when we most need Little Blue Fishes Together The world is changing faster – it’s happening more often Networks are more important today than ever before

6 THE CLASSIC PROCESS Identifying common learning needs or potential to learn from each other Identifying common advocacy needs About ourselves & operating environment About the issues we’re passionate about Learning & training: Learning from each other; Training from outsiders Collective advocacy Information service: Issues, operating environment, good practice Lots of individual relationships Creating networking spaces


8 ‘THE MESSY POWER OF COMPLEXITY’ Lots of threads, lots of knots: complex, can feel unfocused Work together makes the most of members’ –Contributions – Commitment – Skills Members contribute because they… –want to – are excited – have something to offer They stop if they feel they don’t/aren’t Benefit – purpose – energy – collective empowerment – inspiration Which delivers BIG results, when it works

9 RUNNING A NETWORK Few networks survive if control is too heavy We’re used to command and control –Hierarchy –Authority at the top Networks seem loose, uncontrollable Flat not pyramid, flexible, can change Power, authority is spread, hard to see/fix Not used to working like this, it can be scary …and that’s ok… Because it can also be hugely powerful

10 4 BASIC PRINCIPLES Diversity –Participants are different, retain their own identity Dynamism –Frees participants to be dynamic, propose activities, get involved – so need light structure, facilitative, enabling, supportive Democracy –Open, non-hierarchical, dependent on trust –Decision making seen to be fair, inclusive, effective, widespread –Leaders consult and report back Decentralisation –Shared leadership –Decisions made where they matter, where the action is –Depends on shared vision, values, effective communication

11 ROLE OF SECRETARIATS ‘Servant leadership’ Facilitating & enabling –Creating spaces for members to share… Information; Learning; Development of influencing positions –Facilitating productive use of spaces –Administration to make it happen Ensuring inclusion, preventing isolation Encouraging/supporting new members Balancing power and influence Linking the whole network with others

12 ARE SECRETARIATS SPECIALISTS? Specialists in Facilitation Strengthening threads, tightening knots Promoting collaboration, not competition Become specialists in Understanding members’ dimensions, needs, environment In PURE networks, other specialisms are usually a bad idea They discourage member activism and leadership But…

13 WHEN SECRETARIATS DO MORE THAN FACILITATE A completely new issue arises The sector needs only one specialist Collective purchasing is best for everyone …could mean we need an issue specialist But dangers… Lose facilitation focus Undermine member leadership & activism Create institution with its own dynamics So use with caution, and plan for Secretariat’s exit from this type of work

14 MINI CHECKLIST (1) Have a clear purpose –Broad consensus –The most we can realistically strive for Have clear values & principles –Members accountable to them Keep central rules to a minimum –Don’t strangle creativity Encourage everyone to lead something –Creates capacity & ownership

15 MINI CHECKLIST (2) See joint activities as more than outputs –They bring people together, lead to trust & mutual support Make dynamism & diversity goals in themselves –They bring creativity to the work View input and participation as central objectives –More engagement = more for everyone


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