Generating ideas, connections, and action

Self-organizing Initiative and Collaboration At Its Best

Creating Space catalyst, June Holley, network weaver extraordinaire and author of the Network Weavers’ Handbook made a very generous offer during her remarks.  In the spirit of the self-organizing initiative she said, “I will help coach the first person to reach out to me for network support.”  Georgia Sorenson pulled out her phone and instantly texted June.  She already had an interesting project in mind that was a collaboration between Georgia and the Leadership Learning Community.

Dr. Georgia Sorenson is the former founding director of the Academy of Leadership.  While she was the director, she received funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to bring together leadership scholars and practitioners from various disciplines and universities for the purpose of building a solid theoretical foundation for leadership studies.  The W. K. Kellogg Foundation has been a leader in the leadership development field funding scholarship and practice.  The Kellogg Leadership Studies Project (KLSP) was launched over 20 years ago (1994-1997).   As part of a presentation for the International Leadership Association’s Annual Conference, Georgia asked LLC if we would be interested in helping her do a Social Network Analysis (SNA) that would map the new collaborative relationships that were developed as a result of this original investment in building new connections among scholars across both disciplines and universities.
Through the project we set out to answer the following questions about the original group of 30 participating scholars:

  1. What new connections have been formed among participating scholars over the past 20 years?
  2. How have scholars from different disciplines been connecting and collaborating on scholarship; e.g. papers, books, presentations?
  3. What can we learn from the maps about the impact of this investment on the field of leadership studies?

June trained Georgia, a quick study, to use her software and Georgia purchased use of June’s survey tools which interfaces easily with the mapping program.  Georgia and I analyzed the maps and findings from the open ended survey questions.  As you will see below, the results are quite compelling.  The first map shows the relationships that existed before the KSLP investment. 


This map shows the collaborative relationships that exist now, 20 years after the original project.

The difference is quite dramatic and the initial maps enabled us to analyze connections by region, discipline and gender. These tools are very helpful for leadership programs as well who are trying to understand the longitudinal impact of cohort relationships that were fostered through a leadership development experience.

These maps are just the tip of iceberg in understanding the impact of the early investment in supporting collaborative scholarship. This SNA looked only at the relationships among the initial group of less than 30 scholars.  However, they were all provided the opportunity to add names of new people that they had connected with or mentored as a result of this work.  In the next phase, we will be able to survey a broader network of over 150 people who have connected beyond the original 30 and who themselves are part of other networks.  We have begun to ask the original group “what has changed in the leadership studies field as a result of the many collaborative research projects spawned by KLSP?”   This is a question that will also be important to ask the new group of 150 scholars who represent even greater diversity of age, gender, and race.  Our hypothesis is that this network today is continuing to influence and deepen our understanding of leadership and leadership development.