Nodes In The Network

Nodes In The Network

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When we launched The Dandelion Foundation 4 years ago, we were initially a high-profile organisation with a very public lobbying and communication strategy. One of our challenges was that new ideas and approaches often create a lot of noise and push-back. Operating publicly, there was a need to demonstrate results and go for ‘quick wins’ – and it was very easy for people to criticise or focus on the mistakes we made. This noise began to hamper our ability to take the long-term action necessary to create a climate for whole system transformation. The amount of effort, energy and resources it took to create shift was high.

There’s always a small percentage of the population who are negative and loud. The more public you are about your intentions, the greater the opportunity for this negativity to drag down your ability to do the things that matter. This is one of the main challenges for governments, in particular. It’s very difficult to for them to get away from the short-term noise to build long-term credibility. Given the breadth of operations and number of areas governments have to deliver on, the noise evoked is so much greater than that of a company with a much narrower focus.

Governments are entrenched in short-termism and are risk-averse because of the constant focus on what’s going wrong, and what’s been wrong in the past. The sheer weight and noise of being constantly in the spotlight accounts for much of the structure and costs of government. Things like risk assessments, independent reviews, committee-based decision-making, policy and rules for every eventuality mean that lasting transformation is extremely difficult. Every day holds a new challenge, to avert criticism in this short-term worldview. Very little time, effort and resources go into medium and long-term future plans, because of this.

According to hard data, it could be argued that Guernsey has one of the best (if not the best) governments in the world; yet local perception of it is just as negative as if it were any poorly performing government. Since there’s a direct link between how much a community trusts its government and how well it can perform, this negative perception is a barrier to the very progress communities want to see. As an organisation working in every area of community services, we quickly realised that we had to build a very different structure from that of government, to prevent a similar credibility deficit. Over the years, we have developed a much less energy-intensive approach to shifting public opinion to create a climate for social and economic innovation. We utilise the power of network ‘nodes’.

Every community is essentially full of networks. These may be work or organisation-related, or shared interest groups – and they are both formal and informal. From churches to schools, from doctors’ to mums’ groups – there are networks everywhere. Each of those networks contain ‘nodes’: people who are great influencers of these networks, for one reason or another. They might be a leader, a social media influence, an organiser, an activist. They come in different forms. The important thing to recognise is how they shape the culture and narratives of the networks to which they belong. Influence these network nodes, personally, and the culture and capability of each network can be transformed over time. Shift the culture of several networks in a single community, and the whole community will start to transform.

When we build events, we create reasons for the key influencers in all networks to attend. When we target issues, we have coffee with key influencers in relevant networks. When we create innovation, we join the dots and cross-pollinate across networks to make that innovation happen. When we build capacity to solve problems, we build networks and we develop and train nodes to achieve it. When we improve networks, we coach the nodes to a greater level of capability.

It is a subtle and self-directed approach. Ultimately, no change would occur without those influencers making up their own minds about the opportunities and frame of view we offer them. If they are convinced, they start to create their own public messages and profiles around that specific issue or solution. They start building solutions and movements in their own way, rather than ways we might prescribe. Using this method, we decentralise a lot of long-term thinking, innovation and action, without the drag of being a high-profile delivery-focussed organisation ourselves. In doing this, we significantly reduce the transformation costs of our community, because we leverage existing people and assets rather than building something else to replace what already exists.

It is largely a frictionless approach that’s a lot of fun. As an organisation, we spend most of our time positive and focused on the long-term, having freed ourselves from much of the negative day-to-day. This has allowed us to stay small, yet maintain a high impact.

There is one problem with this approach, though, that we have yet to solve. As much as this approach works, its primary downside is recognition. Organisations such as ours require recognition to gain the funding we need to operate – and yet this very recognition, over time, reduces our ability to achieve the impact we want. We don’t yet have the answer to that challenge. What we do know is – there is huge power in a subtle and distributed approach to making progress.

To transforming community, one node at a time.

Marc

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  1. Marc, this is the most relevant blog post for me personally to date. The noise has been pretty deafening lately for us. You guys are an inspiration. I suppose as you go on with this kind of work you realise there isn’t really anything else to do with your time. Connect, love, learn, grow – all of the glittery prizes that once seemed so important start to fade and the real treasure shows itself. Smiling faces. It’s all done for a smile.

    • Thanks for sharing Mike. I have to agree that the person by person interactions have been the most beneficial part of this. I see people’s eyes change as they tap into their true potential. That is what keeps me going.

  2. Susan Hayward says:

    Thanks for this post, Marc. It resonates loudly with something I am involved in at the moment. The noise detracting from the good. It confirms my decisions to handle things the way I have are the right ones. I am not alone in having my efforts questioned.

  3. Thank You Marc,

    for your clearly calling-out for collaborative activity, and taking an unstoppable stand for growing conscious community.

    quoting you today, “We build capacity to solve problems, we build networks and we develop and train nodes to achieve it. When we improve networks, we coach the nodes to a greater level of capability.”

    I hope I do not incur negative blow-back by acting here as a “node” in a network, as I am encouraged to interact co-creatively?

    Might you (the reader) be interested in feeling into an example of how spiritually immersive a series of pivotal films is designed to be, or read an article (linked below) published in Kosmos Journal? And, if you will, please take a look below at a 14 week training course, to sense if you know people who might be thrilled to help humanity share a common sense globally.

    Here’s a short clip of three friends feeling ‘through’ the one we all are.
    “Free from Our Selves and Free to Be Our Selves”
    https://youtu.be/jESzc-WOnB8 . (7:44 min)

    I’m working on a series of movies to draw audiences in to feel ‘the one we all are’ through an ensemble cast on screen, by ‘breaking the fourth wall’ and asking if viewers are feeling ‘the one we all are’ with the people sitting around them, experientially exploring how rich and deep and subtle our true BEings actually are, as Love its Self: i.e.,
    https://www.kosmosjournal.org/reader-essay/free-at-last-being-what-we-are/

    The Human Connection Institute, which I am founder and co-director of, is offering a new “flagship” training course.
    If you are interested or know someone who might be, please feel free to share this.
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/human-connection-project-course-sperry-andrews/?lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Ad_flagship3_profile_view_base_post_details%3BwXP77vRMTmahtukrk2vjIw%3D%3D

    Thank You Marc, for bringing “us’ together

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