I want to bang out some of the thoughts I am wrestling with after spending some time with a group of fantastic people in Seattle and San Francisco (more on that to come). The last several days have been affirming and opened a new list of questions and ideas.
I am at the place in my thinking where I now believe networks are the mechanism that the environmental and progressive movement should be exploring as new structure for organizing and deploying resources for creating change. They are not "scary" . Organizing the network means building network capacity and has little or nothing to do with the fate of large organizations.
These new networks are a mix of the existing legacy of organizing (individuals, trade guilds, organizations, unions, think tanks, churches, federations, progressive companies, politicians, software, databases, foundations, community technology centers, etc.) and a new generation of powerful and weak participants not bound into the system by the same old models. New participants and resources that are merely tied between these legacy systems by a dense layer of connections.
So......in all that I have written in the past. I have never touched on some really important concepts. I am very excited by the boost these last few days have provided and I am excited to see where the next round of chasing questions will take me.
"the Network Layout"
All the participants in the new systems are "nodes". This covers people, groups, foundations, etc. as well as databases, software, intellectual property, reputation and other nonhuman and nonphysical assets.
* What are all the nodes in environmental advocacy networks? How can we evaluate "node fitness"? What is the value of all the nodes combined? What is the output of the nodes as individual stand alone power bases? How is that output "throughput" changed when it is connected with other parts of the advocacy movement?
The value of the nodes of our network are not the only thing on the table. The connections between those nodes have value. The connectivity of the movement has a direct value (because it takes investment to create and because the connections improve the capacity of the network to do work.)
* What are the connections in the movement? How are they created? How can they be maintained? (luckily Richard Rogers was a huge help in spelling out the connections)
Nodes (people, groups and resources) and connections (self-interest, resource exchange, contagion, mutual interest, proximity, etc) are not enough to motivate network behavior. The protocol for exchanging ability to do work must also be hammered out. I am still kicking this around but there needs to be a series of steps that make it possible to push and pull work through the pipelines between our network (standards and protocols).
I am also fascinated with the ideas of "pulsing" an advocacy network. testing and monitoring the network capacity and monitoring changes in network throughput in an advocacy context.
There also is a new concept of the organizing node "cult of the alpha male" the solar stars at the centers of each network universe. What is the role of these catalyst? Can the size and influence of these players be reduced if the network finds other ways to provide these functions that they typically provide? What would that look like in an advocacy context?
There is not many answers here but I wanted to outline my current musings. Hopefully, I will pull more of these thoughts together in the weeks ahead.