by Georgina Wilson
Georgina WiIson recently attended our Networks & Coffee event. She explains how practicing collaborative leadership can help people build supportive peer networks.
Leadership = Power?
As leaders, we are so often taught that leadership looks like power. We’re taught that we have to claw and fight our way to the top of the heap and then command everybody once we get there.
But, from my experience working with leaders and community groups to lead positive change, I’ve learned that it’s just so much more special and so much more effective to collaborate with our peers. As individuals, we can’t possibly know everything. But as leaders, it’s tempting to pretend that we do.
A different kind of leadership...
Here’s the thing: the moment we start admitting that there may be people on our teams and in our networks that have a skill we don’t is the moment we start being more effective agents of change. Groups tend to be far more successful when they admit that there may be someone on the team who does something better, just like there are things I do better. It’s all about recognizing the unique skills in our team members and acting on them.
Recently, I attended Power to Change’s Networks & Coffee event facilitated by Shared Assets and The Social Change Agency. We looked at some of the reasons why networks making social change are struggling. One of the key elements of this conversation was that to be successful change agents, we should tap into the power that exists in simply coming together and growing together.
How do we get there?
This is something I am personally trying to emphasise in the project I’m leading called “Lead Positive Change.” We have had several events called “how change-makers can lead positive change,” and what was key there is that we created the space to learn and grow from one another.
I also wondered why we thought it was okay to try and create alone, to really try and strive without collaboration. So with my business, BUD (Businesses Under Development), I’m taking a unique approach by supporting leaders of positive change through teaching a participation based approach.
We want to create so much collaboration and partnership that people truly feel valued, and to encourage the idea that each individual can truly contribute something incredibly important. On a personal level, I want to work with other people and I want to share my skills with them and learn the skills that they have. We want groups not only to learn how to collaborate, but to gravitate towards collaboration. We want people to start seeing it as both appealing and natural.
What I have learned, and what I want others to learn, is the importance of understanding and respecting one another. I want individuals to gain experience outside of themselves. And I want people to see how when you put two people next to each other, you can create something that has never before existed. Collaboration is a fusion of ideas and skills and networks that turn into something new and beautiful. To me, it is one of the coolest concepts in the world and I want others to see it as well.
by Jane Stephenson, Business Development Director at Resource Futures
Last month, CoP members heard from Resource Futures Director Jane Stephenson - and then had a chance to pick her brain about peer network business models! In this blog, she outlines how different networks can sustain themselves and their members’ needs. From local authority-funded Community Action Groups to partner-supported Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Jane runs us through the various ways a network can earn its living.
Last week I spent an inspiring afternoon at Triodos’ Annual Meeting listening how they connect the world of finance with social and environmental initiatives and the launch of their new personal current account. Triodos’ investors and customers are part of a network who want to change banking practices. A reminder of the power of networks.
But how do we make sure these powerful networks have all the resources they need? Networks, just like businesses, not-for-profits and enterprises, need business models.
Recently I was invited to address the Peer Networks Community of Practice. There I reflected on the different network business models I have been involved in at Resource Futures.
Here are four examples of network business models. These networks draw funds from a variety of services: public funding, private sponsorship, selling services or certifications… Read on and be inspired by these brief case studies!
2. Community RePaint
Community RePaint has been successfully developed since 1992 as a partnership with Dulux Paints (AkzoNobel) and Resource - ensuring that unused paint is redistributed to a network of over 70 schemes supporting communities and households in need. This work has led AkzoNobel to invest further in circular economy business thinking most recently in paint remanufacture.
BCorps is a new network in the UK of businesses committed to social and environmental purpose as well as profits. The certification is “to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or LEED certification is to green building.” Businesses certified by B Lab meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
What all these networks share is a passion for working collaboratively and making a positive impact. Each of these initiatives were started by a few people who were prepared to challenge existing paradigms. Together we can make change happen.
Want to learn more about different network business models? Check out Jane’s full slide-set, our briefing and workshop slides!
Capital Growth is a network for people growing food in their gardens, allotments or community spaces in London. After attending ‘Dig In with Capital Growth’, their exciting Spring networking-do, we take a step back and look at what we can learn from this lively and thriving network of gardeners and food growers.
To make the most of wildlife in your garden, you need to encourage the good and manage the bad, rather than eliminate it, says Paul Richens, official Worm Guru and owner of Blue Dome Synergies. If you were to completely clear out all those pesky slugs, for example, you would also lose lots of other useful creatures that help keep your garden fertile.
Networks are ecologies of people after all – so how do you encourage the useful dynamics and curb the frustrating ones? Let’s take a look at Capital Growth and the great job they continue to do as ‘network gardeners’. Here are some of the key networks tips and tricks we can take away from their ‘Dig In’ event.
1. Plan for serendipity: get the logistics right
Dig In was a seriously well-timed and organised event. Delicious food was available right at the beginning, so that network members old and new had time to meet and mingle before the event kicked off. This is often where people say the ‘magic’ of networks happens – in those serendipitous interactions as you’re spooning hummus onto a plate and chat to someone who might become a future project partner, colleague or volunteer.
But these things don’t just ‘happen’. The Capital Growth team had clearly put a lot of effort into planning out different spaces and times for people to interact ‘organically’ and others for structured skill-sharing and updates. The result was a great mix of stimulating discussion, listening and reflection time.
2. Spread out the leadership roles
To get the logistics right, you need someone behind the scenes who is prepared to do all the hard work of drafting newsletters, booking catering, managing mailing lists… Let’s take a moment to appreciate all the ‘network guardians’ out there! But as skilled network leaders, the Capital Growth team were careful to step back when needed. Workshops around wildlife, engaging volunteers and advanced growing were led by expert network members, and London Grows hub leaders had a chance to update us and ask for support with their exciting projects. Just like an ecology of species in a garden, different network members had a chance to contribute their skills and knowledge at various points in the event.
3. Knit the network tight - but not too tight
As I was queueing for more delicious food, Natalie from Living Under One Sun stopped me: “I recognise your face! Were you at Land for What?” One of the beauties of tight-knit networks is that they create an atmosphere of immediate trust and connection with people who share values and experiences. The challenge is that they run the risk of excluding people or groups who may feel like the boundaries of that network are not ‘permeable’ enough for them to join in. Capital Growth is actively encouraging its members to get new people to participate in their training – just like in any thriving ecosystem, with greater diversity, resilience and new collaborations can emerge.
A big thanks to Capital Growth for hosting a great event and for lots of valuable network insights! Join them for the Big Dig on 22nd April.
Blog post by Isabella Coin, Consultancy and Research Assistant at Shared Assets and part of the CoP Convenor Team
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