Networks are not inherently more equitable or democratic. They operate within the same dominant white supremacist culture that undermines equity in our organizations. Besides talking about culture, power and equity a lot, we wanted to share three practices which we have implemented to better distribute leadership and decision making to create more equity in our networks. They are early experiments, and we would love to hear about what you are doing in your networks.
Equity funds: While we encourage people to take initiative in networks, there can be obstacles to who has the time and resources to participate. For example, not everyone is in a well resourced organization that can support their participation or the costs (childcare or travel) associated with participation. For this reason, we have created an equity fund to provide stipends for time or costs incurred by participation. Here is a sample of guidelines we created for our equity funds.
Network Activation Funds: We have run a number of seed funding initiatives to support activities that increase connection among a network, and support experiments and ad hoc network activities. As we invite folks from the network to the design process, we make sure that the composition of the design team includes a diverse group who bring deep experience with equity, and that equity is heavily weighted as a criteria for projects to be funded. The process is important for making sure that people in the network have access to making decisions about how its resources are allocated, and that the process is transparent. The equity fund mentioned above might be tapped to make sure that there are no financial barriers to who has time to participate in designing the fund. Feel free to experiment with this network activation fund template.
Facilitation Pool: Networks are not new. Most of us have been part of informal networks, and communities of color have deep experience using networks to mobilize resources in caring for one another. We have used a network facilitator pool to tap the organic wisdom of people in network, often people of color, who can help to center equity in the network. Through an onboarding and matching process, we are able to orient participants to facilitating network practices so that we can match them (and compensate them) for providing support to self-initiated network projects. This is part of supporting network leadership and sustainability. To see how we have promoted facilitators and created a request form for their services you can visit the Wellbeing and Equity Bridging Network (WEB).
We would love to hear what you are trying, and if you use any of these tools, we would be eager to hear how you have used them, what you have learned, and if you have adapted them to make them stronger.