The New Weaver Network; LCW is Re-Thinking, Re-Designing Our Network Organizing Practice and Learning


Over the past 6 months, staff and members have been taking stock of our Network Organizing approach as operationalized through the Collective Action and Mobilization (CAM)  and Network Organizing Forum (NOF) Units.  The results? Significant shifts in programming and in our training and collective learning approaches.  These shifts are largely about four things:

  • Creating more space for adaptation and flexibility in our approaches for application in a range of evironments
  • Being more intentional about understanding, supporting and communicating the practice of “weaving”  – our core leadership role in the network
  • More firmly grounding all of our practice in our core value of “reciprocity”
  • Integrating Network-Centric practice – and the learning around the practice – more organically into Network life for members and staff.

These shifts have also involved changes in the way that CAM and NOF work together and the way that other network units are engaged in shaping Network-Centric practice and thinking. The following is an outline of the major shifts underway

1. The Weaver Network ( Formerly Known as the NOF!)

The Network Organizing Forum has a new name – The Weaver Network!  Beyond the name change, the Network has a fresh mission:

“The Weaver Network is a program of Lawrence CommunityWorks designed to advance the thinking and the practice of Network Organizing – a form of placed-based community organizing and community building – both within the LCW network and in the larger world.

Network organizing seeks to shape new environments where people living under challenging circumstances and/or taking on challenging issues can build relationships of trust and value, and subsequently rely on those relationships to achieve positive results for themselves and their communities. These environments are grounded in the idea and active practice of “reciprocity.”

Weaving, the principal leadership practice in Network Organizing, is an intentional practice of helping people connect to information, opportunity, each other and, most importantly, their own personal power. Weavers do this by opening new moments and new spaces for co-learning and co-investment to flourish.

The Weaver Network is a learning community founded by the members of Lawrence CommunityWorks, which brings individuals and organizations together who are exploring and developing he thinking and practice of Network Organizing. “

2. The PODER Leadership Institute

PODER is the Network’s powerful premier leadership development experience, begun in 2003. Traditionally, PODER has been an intensive 4 month Saturday workshop series. Beginning this year, PODER will operate as a year long Cohort approach, where the group will be meeting as a cohort 3 times throughout the year but will also be participating in other trainings and activities that will be ALSO be open to the full membership.  The cohort will also work on group projects between mandatory sessions and share their progress online through the TWN website.

The 3 Manadatory Cohort Days

Day One:

v  Morning:

  • Understanding leadership in a network environment: Weaving.  Members will learn about weaving as a leadership quality and about their own leadership style.  This training will incorporate elements from the first Weaver training session.

v  Afternoon:

  • Space and environments:  members will learn about the power of environments: how the influence and affect our decisions and interactions with each other.  The session will include evaluation exercises and role play to illustrate the concepts.
  • Project:  Photo montage:  members will share photos of their favorite place in the city and their least favorite space in the city.  They will evaluate those online and will explain their choices.  They will also make recommendations about the best use for those environments, or what changes they would make to them. (permission forms will be given to use photos, if needed)

Day Two:

v  Morning:

  • The Myth and the fact: Class participants will meet at Lawrence Heritage State Park and view a film on the City’s labor history, called “Collective Voices: The Bread and Roses Strike.”  We will discuss the history, the myth, and the current reality of Lawrence.  Class members will then build on their analyses of power, leadership and economics to build their own theory of why things are the way they are in Lawrence.

v  Afternoon:

  • Power of ideology: What role do the media play in shaping the way we understand events and how we respond to them?  This class includes a viewing of the documentary, “The Revolution will not be televised.”
  • Project: Interview-perceptions of Lawrence (needs development, ideas)

Day three:

v  Morning:

  • Understanding power: The class will put “leadership in context.”  Class members will discuss four types of power – political, economic, social, and ideological – as well the theories behind them and how these types of power are exercised in Lawrence.  We will also take a look at social change movements to understand how people have gained power and expressed leadership to make change.

v  Afternoon:

  • Developing your personal power: Members will explore the kernel of power theory and then discuss how we can each identify and use our kernel to be more empowered. Members will also discuss how to help others identify and claim their kernels and how that can help in building communities.  Members will learn about the kernel of power and the power of intentional storytelling to build relationships of trust across lines of difference.
  • Project:  TBA

Additional PODER Sponsored Workshops Open to Membership:

Asking the Right Question

Guest Speaker: Luz Santana, The Right Question Project

In this class, participants will learn a model for formulating questions and discuss theories of adult learning and consciousness-raising.  By looking at decisions made by public institutions that affect our daily lives, participants will learn to develop the questions that can guide our analysis, advocacy and organizing.

Collaborative Leadership

Both formal and informal leaders need to view leadership as service, respect the value and diversity that each person brings, and share power and decision–making.  The practice of this is called “collaborative leadership.”  In this intensive 2-day workshop, PODER members will use group exercises, discussions and coaching to learn about and develop the skills and tools central to the practice collaborative leadership.

Analysis of the Economy

Class participants will improve their economic literacy by exploring the causes of the widening income gap in this country – What are the institutions and systems that create wealth for some and poverty for many?  We will also look at the state and local budgets – Where does money come from, how is it spent, and who decides?

Other activities will include movie screenings, panel discussions, participation in on-site or offsite immersions and additional workshops.

3. NeighborCircles

NCs continue to be a powerful and effective strategy for local engagement and relationship building, membership generation and local action. However, over the past several months, CAM staff, NOF staff and members have been undergoing an evaluation and redesign of some aspects of the approach.

Scheduling/Frequency/Structure:

The traditional Circle is 3 consecutive dinners and we are still using this approach in many situations. However we have added a 2-dinner and 1-dinner version of the Circle in circumstances where 3 dinners is too much of a commitment or in communities-of-interest where the Map Exercise is really what is needed. For instance we are working with the Home Ownership Center to offer all its participants (especially first time homeowners) a one-time dinner facilitated by our NC facilitators for hosts that are interested in meeting their neighbors.  We are calling these dinners ‘Neighbors Dinners’ and they are offered as a benefit of being a HOC participant/member.

Roles: Host and Facilitator

The role of the host has remained the same. However the role of the Facilitator is now more oriented to that of a network weaver.  We have found that the Circle facilitation will drift toward encouraging action over relationship building.  For this reason we are re-shaping the training and support to genuinely and consistently emphasize relationship building – weaving. The goal of course is to have each and every neighbor walk away from their NeighborCircle feeling they have made new and valuable connections to other neighbors and to the Lawrence CommunityWorks network.

Outreach:

We are still working our network relationships to find new hosts and facilitators. However we are also doing a few things more intentionally.

  • Asking hosts to invite friends who live in other neighborhoods to come and observe during a NC.
  • Offering a modified version of NeighborCircles. Just recently HOC and CAM agreed to offer all HOC participants a one dinner modified version of NC for homeowners to meet their neighbors and learn a little about LCW.  At the end of that dinner the facilitator will offer the participants the opportunity to expand to three dinners (a full NC) but it is up to the participants to take advantage of this opportunity.  This idea emerged out of the challenge to get new homeowners to commit to hosting a NC.  In our experience, new homeowners are less likely to host a NC because they are relatively new to their neighborhood and want a little be of time to adapt to their new home (maybe even make some home improvements) and figure out who is who in the neighborhood before inviting them into their home.

Tracking :

Data for each NC (host, address, number of participants, individual participant information, etc.) is now entered into Sales Force. Com our CRM data environment.

Evaluation:

NC participants now complete a NC evaluation sheet at the end of the third dinner.  On the evaluation we asks mostly questions about the quality of the experience (did you like the experience?Did you find it helpful? How many neighbors did you meet for the first time? Would you recommend NC to a friend? etc.).

Facilitators Training/Support:

  • NC facilitators now need to complete a 2-day (about 14 hours) NC training before they can facilitate a NC. This training is heavily weighted toward weaver skills building.
  • All NC facilitators meet once per month to coordinate outreach, share their NC experiences, provide mutual support to each other and in many cases improve the practice.

Follow up:

  • NC’s that decide to work on projects have the option of receiving technical assistance and support from LCW. NC’s working on projects can apply for mini grants of up to $300.00 to support their projects.
  • NC participants are invited to LCW open house so they can meet other members and get connected to other opportunities in the Network.
  • NC participants are invited to end of year celebration where they get to meet other NC participants to share, celebrate and learn from each other experiences.

4. Memberlink Program

MemberLink is the layer of Stipened Member Developmental Oportunities available in the Network. These include the Guides program, the Reviviendo Fellowship, The NOF Internship, Peer Leaders program and NeighborCircles Facilitators and Hosts. All in all, in any given year, there are 12-18 MemberLink opportunities. Members can only participate in any given MemberLink opportunity (with the exception of the NeighborCircles Facilitators) and each opportunity lasts one year. In this way we can continually open these opportunities up to new members.

MemberLink is a wonderful and effective element of the network – increasing our capacity to steward the network while providing genuinely valuable opportunities for profesional and personal development for members. We intend to continue to invest in making MemberLink an exceptional approach. The following are some of the recent shifts in practice:

The “Guides “program is now The “Weaver” Program: Evaluation and observation told us that over the past year or so the Guides program had drifted somewhat from a focus on the practice of “weaving” to a more technical role as a greeter and referral role in the campus Lobby (ie ‘reception’.)  This is due to several factors: The move to the campus and the creation of the Guides “station” in the lobby, the pressure to ‘cover’ for reception in the lobby because of budget cuts,  and a less than ideal level of attentiveness to program support and training.

Looking at the program, we realized something else – that there is a natural tendency – drift – to the “expert” role and a replication of the  ‘positional power dynamic common in most ‘intake’ or reception environments.  In our view, this is not an effective relationship building disposition. Over the  past few months we have decided to take on this ‘drift’ dynamic and go deeper into the nuances of the practice of “weaving”.  Not only have we changed the name of the program but we have been developing and experimenting with new appraoches to mutual learning and exploration of this role – principally around the concept of using language, physical movement, and physical space to do a better job of  “creating space” for relationship building at the first contact and through the affiliation moment.

New level of training and Support: In the past, each of the MemberLink programs operated in a slightly different annual cycle with separate training. Starting this summer we will be providing an overall orientation to Memberlink and more extensive Weaver training and on-going support throughout the year.

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