There are some great to-do's to tease out of the article from Forbes. How is your advocacy network evolving in a self-help way.
1. DO you let your online discussions range over many issues and help people connect on more than just one political issue. Do you encourage members to connect on personal level (EVEN though everyone remains connected for a specific reason.) Connecting on different levels does not change the reason for participating in the network it only strengthes the connection.
2. How open is your network? How does it grow? who is responsible for network operations and network health? Who is responsible for creating bridge ties within your network and to outside networks? How are you learning from the new people? what is the use of connecting to the distant ties if you are not learning from them?
3. How do you find the "bliss point" in organizing. Are you open enough to bring in new ideas and closed enough to foster trust? How will you know? Is there an introduction process? Is there a qualifying process? Do you need a long-term group or just a rapid series of short lived networks? How does that change vetting process?
4. How is the network managing persistent reputation and identiy? How is the network leveraging the "self-help" instinct and peer pressure? How are people joining to help themselves not help you? What value do they get beside "be a part of your campaign" ?
The killer quote..building in sustainablity to your lon-term network has to include value and personal ties.
Short of mafia-style enforcement, most self-help groups have to rely on self-interest, broadly construed, to maintain their members' interest. Those that survive over the long term usually do so not because of their practical advantages, though those may be considerable, but because of the friendships they create. "What keeps people in more than they anticipated is essentially the ties that are formed," says Zuckerman. Groups like Business Networks may be "selling essentially hard-nosed business considerations--you're going to go in, and you're going to increase your bottom line." But once members have gotten those initial benefits, they stick around because, in Cunningham's words, they've become "best buds for life.""
Link: A Small Circle Of Friends - Forbes.com.
While self-help networks differ widely, they all face similar issues: How exclusive or open can the group be and still achieve its goals? How can it sustain participation over time? Who will take responsibility for maintaining group activities? And how focused on its instrumental purpose, as opposed to social connections or other concerns, should the network be?
To social scientists, a network (self-help or otherwise) usually implies a system that includes both subgroups in which everyone knows everyone else and "bridging ties," where an individual is connected to others outside those smaller circles. In an influential 1973 article, "The Strength of Weak Ties," sociologist Mark Granovetter, now a professor at Stanford, demonstrated that while job hunters use social connections to find work, they don't use close friends. Rather, survey respondents said they found jobs through acquaintances--old college friends, former colleagues, people they saw only occasionally or just happened to run into at the right moment. New information, about jobs or anything else, rarely comes from your close friends because they tend to know the same things and people you do. One reason online forums are so valuable to participants like Franks is that they connect lots of people who wouldn't otherwise know one another.
Bridging ties keep a network from becoming a clique, but they can't build the trust and deep knowledge essential to many self-help efforts. The most effective networks reach a sort of "bliss point." They're open enough to bring in new ideas and closed enough to foster trust and intimate knowledge. "You actually need some of that cliquey-ness," says Brian Uzzi, an economic sociologist at the Kellogg (nyse: K - news - people ) School of Management.
If it becomes too open, a self-help network can disintegrate. Through the 1990s Stephen B. Garner, a Portland, Ore. marketing consultant, served as the volunteer coordinator for a business network called Resource Focus Group. Once a month members met for breakfast to hear a presentation by a company facing a strategic issue, such as how to penetrate a new market or whether to sell the business. Members asked questions and discussed how the company should proceed. Once a year presenters reported on what had happened since their meetings. By bringing in outside presenters, the group ensured a constant flow of new information. "It was really just a great learning experience with some very intelligent people," says Garner. Members could also propose new members, subject to a vote by the group.
When Garner moved to Spain for a year, however, his successor took a more laissez-faire approach, making the group less exclusive. "People would just show up, and they'd be new members. There'd be no introduction. There'd be no qualification," says Garner. As meetings became more impersonal and less fun, longtime members started drifting away. The group eventually dissolved.
To remain useful, self-help networks have to police their members, whether that means removing spam from the Living Donors Online message boards or screening members. That often requires an informal coordinator like Garner who not only organizes network activities and enforces the rules but stakes his own reputation on picking the right members.
In her new book, Survival of the Knitted: Immigrant Social Networks in a Stratified World (Stanford University Press, 2007), Rutgers sociologist Vilna Francine Bashi examines the networks that bring West Indian immigrants to New York and London and help them find jobs and housing. These networks depend on people Bashi refers to as "hubs," usually pioneer immigrants with strong ties to their homelands. Hubs decide whom to bring over, put the new migrants up in their homes until they've saved enough money for their own apartments and refer them to jobs. They are selective as, person by person, they build a new community. Bashi asked one woman how she decided which of her two sisters to send for: "She explained, 'You send for the one you like best.'"
Build it into the political and advocacy constituency. Use online and onland activities to support it and ultimately you are creating a mush more powerful and robust grassroots.