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Susan Kistler on Network Weaving

My name is Susan Kistler. I am the Executive Director for the American Evaluation Association and I contribute each Saturday’s post to the aea365 blog. This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with two wonderful women via a conference call to assist them with preparing a proposal for the Evaluation 2010 Conference (heads up – proposal deadline is March 16!). Three months ago, Terry Uyecki had noted as part of a discussion on AEA’s LinkedIn Group that she used graphic facilitation when conducting community needs assessments. Jara Dean-Coffey’s February 12 aea365 blog post focused on visual facilitation and graphic recorders. Although I have never had the pleasure of meeting either of these women, quick emails to each confirmed their common interests and willingness to collaborate.

Why do I relate this tale? Because this week, I am going to focus on Network Weaving. Beth Kanter defines network weaving as “Bringing people or groups together to do activities that create more impact than if they were doing them alone.” For me, it is one of the most satisfying parts of my job – helping people to build the connections that nurture their professional networks and the field, create a community of practice, and better society (I like to dream big).

Hot Tip: Take the initiative to close those triangles! An open triangle relationship – essentially a V – exists when someone knows two people who don’t know one another but have a common interest or reason for collaboration (think Dean-Coffey and Uyecki). Take the steps needed to reach out and ‘close the triangle’ by introducing the two. Ideally, one can then strengthen the new leg of the triangle and foster the relationship through such actions as being present at a meeting, pointing out mutual knowledge/needs/benefits, and serving as a resource or liaison as described in this Network Weaving 101 article.

Rad Resource: What kind of Network Weaver Are You? June Holley, possibly the godmother of network weaving, has developed a Network Weaver Checklist. Reading through it periodically helps me to think about ways in which I could strengthen the networks in which I am involved.

Rad Resource: Piqued your interest? Consider following the networkweaving blog at http://networkweaver.blogspot.com/.

To bring this full circle – or at least to highlight an intriguing coincidence – in 2009 June Holley (godmother to network weaving) facilitated a rural economic development summit using a graphic recorder (commonality between Dean-Coffey and Uyecki). The resulting images may be found here.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

5 thoughts on “Susan Kistler on Network Weaving”

  1. Pingback: A Call to Evaluation Bloggers: Building A Better KT System « Censemaking

  2. Beth – great question – How is network weaving important to the trade and craft of evaluation?

    Certainly, there are the connections on the front end, while planning, that help to improve design – learning from other evaluators who have ‘been there, done that’ and can suggest tools and approaches, warn of obstacles, provide lessons learned. Then there are the connections within the program that help one to adapt those lessons learned and one’s expertise to the evaluand in a culturally and contextually appropriate manner. There are the connections that open doors, allowing for richer understanding and more successful data collection. And the relationships that help in reporting, so that findings may be heard and acted upon.

    But I am speaking from the position of a thoughtful friend to the field. As AEA’s Executive Director, I am at a level removed from practice. My personal network weaving is more at the level of building a web of connections that form a support system to nurture those in practice.

  3. Susan, thanks so much for the post and a little preview about the session Terry and I hope to present at AEA later this year. We hope those of you along the visual methods adoption specturm will join us in San Antonio. And in the spirif of network weaving, please reach out to Terry and I prior so that we can share stories and methods to advance our individual practices and that of the field.

  4. Great piece and glad to see others Talking about this important topic. How is networkweaving important for the trade and craft of evaluation

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