Generating ideas, connections, and action

Network for Change


I once worked for a nonprofit designing treatment programs for inmates in correctional facilities. My mentors there taught me that a good leader surrounds herself with people who have strengths she does not so that the leader’s team is ready to deal with as many potentialities as possible. I believe this is the same thinking behind the advice to be mission focused, not focused on the organization. What good does it do the organizations in Impact Brokers to be stable, salient, long standing, etc, if that doesn’t translate into: less homeless women and children; more volunteers for local non profits; healthier youth?

Deborah Meehan has more to say about mission sustainability vs. organizational sustainability. Being mission focused can be a precursor to being networked. What else does it mean to be a networked nonprofit and why do it? In The Networked Non Profit , Jane Wei-Skillern and Sonia Marciano discuss many of the characteristics of successful networked non profits including having an external focus-on building a network-instead of the usual internal focus on fundraising, staff recruitment and program development. They write that, “By mobilizing resources outside their immediate control, networked nonprofits achieve their missions far more efficiently.” Social capital can be thought of as an external resource outside of one’s immediate control, and yet, able to be developed considerably. Impact Brokers-a cooperative of nonprofits, investors, consultants and community partners coming together to improve our collective capacity to tackle complex social challenges-is working towards developing the social capital of its members. The resultant increase in network can be used for so many things: movement building; fund and other resource development; problem solving of the highest order. The point is to put in place whatever is needed to tackle an organization’s mission. Wei-Skillern and Marciano also talk about what’s going on in the nonprofit sector that inhibits network creation. On the top of their list: leaders who view growth and increased revenue as success factors rather than mission impact. Boards that have a strictly organization oriented focus (rather than mission) can get in the way of network building as well can restricted funding from top-down oriented donors. What’s it going to take to change this anti-network orientation? Networks! Are you encountering any of these or other blocks to networks? I’d like to hear about it and what you are doing to try to overcome it. Wei-Skillern, Jane & Marciano, Sonia. The Networked Nonprofit. Stanford Social Innovation Review (Spring 2008)