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Discussion: Fostering Collaborative Organizations and Networks for Social ChangeReported This is a featured thread

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Fostering Collaborative Organizations and Networks for Social Change
Jul 18 2010, 12:27 PM EDT | Post edited: Jul 18 2010, 12:49 PM EDT
Thanks Kendra for posting. (I framed a question for your post...feel free to edit it if you like). I so agree with you about the importance of understanding collaborative leadership using a system framework. A systems perspective focuses attention on the dynamics of what is happening within and outside organizations. An interesting issue to focus on is how collaborative activity is occurring within bureaucratic organizations? I think Patti's post speaks to this issue as well when she talks about informal and formal networks. I think there is a really interesting question you raise: How much bureaucratic involvement dampens the effectiveness of collaborative activity and where is the threshold of top-down control that still enables collaborative activity to thrive? So much network leadership is practiced within and across organizations whose leadership operates with a bureaucratic mindset, and it's often experienced as a real challenge. How do we keep pushing the threshold so that collaboration has more space to develop within and across organizations? Do you find this valuable?    
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1. RE: Fostering Collaborative Organizations and Networks for Social Change
Jul 18 2010, 3:07 PM EDT | Post edited: Jul 18 2010, 3:07 PM EDT
That is absolutely the question that fascinates me right now. The model of top-down control is the standard, but what if we generate a model of network-up influence? Networked leadership might serve as the catalyst for that, or, perhaps, networked leadership is the genesis of that. It makes sense that those could/should be in balance, since the bureaucracy often provides the stage on which much of that networked and collaborative leading could take place. The trick, I think, is getting those in "control" of the bureaucracy to develop and foster that networked model and leave behind the 20th century industrial model of organizational leadership.

So interesting to me, and I'm very much looking forward to "meeting" you and learning more about this work.
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2. RE: Fostering Collaborative Organizations and Networks for Social Change
Jul 20 2010, 1:10 PM EDT | Post edited: Jul 20 2010, 1:10 PM EDT
As I was preparing for Thursday's call, I referred to some work done by David Siegel, my dissertation chair. His work on organizing for social partnership has some very interesting bits to contribute to our discussion, I think. He talks about that bureaucratic mindset Claire mentioned a few days ago. How, with that mindset, can truly collaborative partnering work for social change? He suggests that the social issues themselves serve as the "centers of gravity" for partnership (or, potentially, network) and that organizations involved in social change partership must surrender their ownership of a particular solution so that the problem becomes the impetus for organizing. I think we can use a similar metaphor with networked leadership, seeing the individual "leaders" as Siegel sees organizations. In order for true networked leadership to be effective, then, in this model, the leaders would need to surrender their sense of control or ownership of the process. They need to be, as Claire points out above, collective, facilitative and, rather than process owning, process-oriented or process-participants.

A very interesting book, which may prove to be useful:
Siegel, D. (2010). Organizaing for Social Partnership: Higher Education in Cross-Sector collaboration. NY, NY: Routledge.

I am very much looking forward to our discussion on Thursday!
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3. RE: Fostering Collaborative Organizations and Networks for Social Change
Jul 20 2010, 5:07 PM EDT | Post edited: Jul 20 2010, 5:07 PM EDT
Thanks for your response Kendra! I will add the book to the Leadership and Networks resources page. Do you find this valuable?    

4. RE: Fostering Collaborative Organizations and Networks for Social Change
Jul 23 2010, 3:05 PM EDT | Post edited: Jul 23 2010, 3:05 PM EDT
I found this forum through my networking and I'm beginning to understand it a bit more. It sounds like many of you are doing research on this topic. I encourage you to look at the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which I started in Chicago in 1993, as a model that might be duplicated. Its aim is to connect a constantly expanding universe of stakeholders into on-going learning from a web based body of knowledge, including sites like this, so that more people understand where and why volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs are needed, what programs are already operating, how they differ from each other, what it takes to make them work, and what leaders from business, faith groups, politics, etc. could do to make more good programs available to kids in high poverty neighborhoods.

That's a mouthful, but if you visit this strategy map, and browse our web sites, you can see what I'm describing. http://tinyurl.com/tmc-strategy-map

One book that illustrates this type of leadership is The Spider and the Starfish, which talks about the strength of de-centralized organizations. It also describes companies like eBey who have created technology platforms for millions of owners to use for their own purpose.

Thus, as you look at the T/MC and the sites we link to, think of a platform that connects thousand of owners to each other, and provides a blueprint and a map showing where to get involved, how long to get involved, and who should be getting involved. The platform itself is constantly being upgraded as others pitch in to help.

At http://tutormentorconnection.ning.com/group/ohatsmetrics you can read about a documentation system, intended to show actions that have been repeated over many years to build this network of purpose. You'll also see a call for help from others who share the same goals.
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