At Local Concepts, we believe strong processes that lift up diverse voices are a key strategy for effective and authentic network and community-building. Our commitment to process ensures that the outcomes a network seeks are achieved with integrity, care, and in any affected community’s best interests. We customize our approach based on our clients goals, and where they are in their development process.
The process of network-building can feel cumbersome and slow for participants used to traditional hierarchical ways of being and working. We take great care in our process to infuse learning around network development principles and practices for participants so that (if needed) team members can begin to understand how a network approach differs from traditional hierarchical ways of working, how network leadership leverages the many gifts brought by all participants, and the importance of trust and relationship-building for transformative change within large and overlapping systems. In that way, building a network mindset and system thinkers within a collaborative framework is a critical strategy for long-term change making efforts.
In our experience working with networks, we have also learned how important it is to forge a different kind of path so that participants WANT to be part of the process and the work, since quite often they are not being paid to come to the table. For example, we use creative community engagement strategies including raffes, semi-structured social hours, and inspirational readings related to the content work of participants. We have found that if people are having fun, building relationships, finding value AND feeling valued and inspired, they will continue to come to the table.
Although there are many promising practices we’ve learned through our experiences that serve as a foundation for our network development work, we always find ourselves adapting to the unique needs and circumstances of each group of people we work with. One client recently told us that she appreciated our iterative and adaptive processes that also keep the momentum moving forward. A process that works for one network-building initiative might not be a perfect fit for another.
To learn more about a network’s particular situation and participant perspectives, we continually create opportunities for folks to provide feedback in different formats, co-create agendas, and contribute in meaningful ways. The collective intelligence that emerges from co-creation is exponentially more powerful in network change efforts. And at the end of the day, the sustainability of the initiative is paramount; diffusing and sharing power, ownership, and leadership can help a network thrive well beyond a consultancy’s contributions.