Building Connected Communities with Network Weaving

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Core/periphery well developed network. Blue nodes are the core. Green nodes are the periphery.

“Scientists describe this phenomenon – where local interactions lead to global patterns – as emergence.”

When beginning to consider connecting communities through network weaving it helps to get a clear picture of what you are working with. A network map is a good place to start because it helps keep track of nodes (people, organizations) and links (how they connect and interact with each other).

Valdis Krebs the co-author of Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving created InFLOWa social network mapping software that helps answer key questions like:

What connections are in place and which are missing?

Who are key leaders in the community or should be?

Who are the experts?

Who are the mentors?

Who are the innovators?

Who are in collaborative alliances?

Who will provide a better return on investment for themselves and their community?

People usually gather out of necessity or around a common goal, forming isolated clusters that need to be further organized to reach out to other groups and become more productive. For this to happen there needs to be an active “network weaver” that will dedicate themselves to connecting diverse individuals and groups, otherwise connections might take a long time or might never happen at all.

At first the network weaver starts relationships with individuals and small clusters to learn about “what they know and what they need”. As soon as possible the network weaver begins connecting clusters with common interests or complementary skills to each other, as well as mentoring emerging network weavers, so there is not just 1 hub or node of connection.

This is the only way for a network to “increase its scale, impact and reach” because it frees the network weaver from being a directly involved leader to a more indirect leader. It also encourages innovation through ties to groups that are outside of your groups or clusters with similar interest.

The core/periphery model of network building is the ideal of network weaving because it welcomes new ideas coming in from new members around the periphery, while key community members or network weavers at the core are putting the most useful ideas into practice. Finally once a network reaches a point where it is well connected it needs to be maintained, and further connected to other networks.

Here a 5 Signs of an effective network:

1. Nodes link together by common attributes, goals or governance.

2. There is a diversity of nodes (important for innovation).

3. There are several paths between nodes so if a node or link is removed, information can still flow among those remaining.

4. Some nodes are hubs or help expand boundaries.

5. Most nodes are connected by an indirect links with a short path length to prevent delay or distortion of information.

Are you a network weaver, or can you see yourself becoming an emerging network weaver?

Read more: Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving by Valdis Krebs and June Holley

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