We discussed this previously with Community of Practice (CoP) members first residential in November. While most of them described themselves as facilitators, many expressed a need for further roles in the network that specialised in strategy and engagement. Understanding the nature of roles and how they serve networks became the topic for our first on-line workshop in early December.
Why is it important to understand the role of roles and what can we use roles for?
Well-managed roles can achieve a variety of results. During our session we focused on two impacts in particular:
The ‘messy’ side of network roles
However, networks of people are never simple and are shaped by interactions, expectations, perceptions and all the other role dynamics that a human centred network would entail. CoP members brought the theory to life by exploring how role dynamics are affecting their own community business networks. The more complex and ‘messy’ side of roles seemed to be the one that most reflected reality in practice.
However, in the same way that networks can be ‘messy’ they are also not static. Taking up and passing on roles seemed to be a particularly complex but essential part of growing a network and understanding the nature of roles was a crucial part of this development. While organisations and network managers may lack the time or capacity to evolve, or the confidence to take on new role responsibilities, others may enjoy their roles and find it hard to pass them on. Crucially however, when working with expanding and growing networks, paying attention to role transitions become vital because they prevent power from being accumulated in the hands of a few key individuals.
So how do we incentivise people to take on roles and pass them on when the time comes? Trust can be one key driver. When network members trust each other, they feel more confident in taking on responsibilities and passing on roles on when necessary.
In response to the ‘messiness’ outlined above, network practitioners such as June Holley, Gideon Rosenblatt and Valdis Krebs have come up with a few key tips to manage network roles:
After exploring the theory, CoP members will now test which of these ideas are most useful to making the most of roles in their own networks. Stay tuned for updates on their progress by using #peoplesCoP and signing up for alerts on new resources.
For more information about roles and networks download the briefing paper [link to the briefing paper].
Isabella Coin and Esther Foreman, Conveners of the CoP