Saturday, September 20, 2008
Who's not in the network map?
Often people create network maps by surveying the "usual suspects" and then creating a map of the relationships among that set of individuals.
I think it's just as important to show who's not in the network. I've been saying for longer than I care to remember that diverse perspectives are critical if we are to be jolted out of our "normal" ways of thinking and acting so that we can make breakthroughs.
The map above shows a network of community organizations interested in helping lower income entrepreneurs access credit. A group of them started meeting, but found they were making little headway. When they decided to map their network, I insisted that they include names of other people who had expertise in lending: area bankers and credit union staff. When the community organizations saw the map shown above, they instantly realized their problem and knew what to do about it! They saw that they were lacking in the very perspectives they needed to make a serious impact on the problem.
It's astounding how important visuals are in helping people see what, to some of us, might seem like the obvious. People in this group were aware that they didn't have any bankers in their network, but until they saw the network map, they weren't able to understand that they were missing a resource and perspective that was needed to solve their problem. The lack of lines to the bankers made them instantaneously realize that these resources would not appear by magic, but needed to be accessed through relationship-building or, as we say, network weaving.
The map enabled the group to identify one person (lower middle of map) who did have relationships with a number of bankers. This person set up a series of breakfast meetings where several people from community organizations were able to get to know a few bankers and gauge their interest in joining the effort.
Once they began to include other voices, they developed a strategy that enabled them to reach many, many more entrepreneurs than they would have on their own.
Who's not linked to your network? Young People? Rich people? People from different ethnic or racial backgrounds?
Below are two previous posts of ours that examine adding diverse nodes and links to your network.
• bridging holes in your network
• weaving at a distance
Often you need to create an "attractor" to bring people you don't know out of the woodwork. ACEnet in Athens Ohio and E4S in Cleveland Ohio are such organizations. They attract people and groups who have similar interests and goals but often do not have any connections with others who are like them.