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Weekly News Alert: Community Engagement, the Power of Networking, Self-Organizing and Design Thinking!

Submitted by: Natalia Castaneda on Mar 12th, 2010 at 5PM PST

On Community Transformation and Engagement...

  • We know that cities and communities are constantly changing and we often attributethe change to economic factors (think Detroit) or specific circumstantial or environmental factors (think New Orleans), but a blog post from nuPolis argues that there are intentional cultural factors that lead a community to change as well.   According to the article there are three dynamics – shared vision and goals, social engagement, and systemic improvement – that, if unleashed, have the potential to fundamentally change a community.  It is by unleashing these cultural components that communities can address issues such as economic capacity, poverty levels, and increased interaction with a larger region.
  • In grantmakers’ quest to fund effective and efficient initiatives, it is key that they are in tune with the programs they are funding and, more specifically, with the communities in which the programs take place.  An article by Stanford Social Innovation Review explores the experiences of grantmakers who have engaged the communities they serve and the benefits that have resulted from those interactions.  The  benefits include a deeper understanding of problems, the creation of new and better solutions and the building of more effective organizations.


On the Power of Networks...

  • When thinking of building or initiating something (a project, organization, program, etc.) we tend to either take a “top down” or a “bottom up” approach; we identify a starting point and then expand either up or down.  A network, however, is different because while the network itself might be a new initiative many of its components are already developed – and those components do not fit into any sort of hierarchical model.  According to Ed Morrson's Garage blog, this means that when building a network, we need to focus on the center and ensure that the core and the connections emerging from the core are as strong as possible.  It is from there we can expand outward, incorporating people, programs and other networks into our own.  It is a complex process but what ensures its stability is a commitment to values that shape the core (which, in turn, shape the surrounding network).
  • June Holley of Networkweaving calls for suggestions on the Network Weaver Handbook she has been developing.  She has uploaded the Table of Contents into a Google doc and wants her readers to let her know what they believe is the most interesting and what they believe is missing from the handbook.


On Philanthropic Success and Evaluation...

  • Sean Stannard-Stockton of Tactical Philanthropy shares and gives his own comments about a post written by Peter Frumkin about what factors lead to successful philanthropy.  Frumkin’s article asserts that there are two categories of philanthropic processes.  The first is technical and ordered, involving program positioning and issue research, logic model drafting, the application of new information technologies, and other programmatic and operational processes.  The second is what Frumkin refers to as “the more humanistic, interpretive, and adaptive work” in philanthropy, meaning it functions via the judgment, character, intelligence and resourcefulness of the people who seek philanthropic funds and is determined by the “gut assessment” of the donors.  Recently, the first type of philanthropy has gained a lot of attention – philanthropies operating like businesses is an especially trendy topic - but Frumkin and Stannard-Stockton agree that while programs, strategy and evaluation are undoubtedly important, it is intuition and judgment that actually drive successful philanthropy.
  • FSG Social Impact Advisers releases a report, Breakthroughs in Shared Measurement and Social Impact, that highlights organizations’ use of new innovate systems which allow nonprofits to measure their impact and performance through common indicators and shared evaluation platforms.  The Executive Summary and complete report are free and downloadable on FSG’s website.


On Self-Organizing and Design Thinking...

  • Networkweaving blog shares a model they use to inspire self-organization.  The model is based on the "Opportunity Process", which involves a group of people sharing their passions, identifying opportunities relating to those passions where they could make a difference, generating projects allowing people to explore those opportunities, determining what “gifts”, skills and other individuals are necessary to realize the opportunities and then implementing the projects.
  • The Interaction Institute for Social Change promotes the idea of “design thinking” when looking at social change initiatives.  IISC spells out the different components of the term (as it applies to social change and other initiatives).  The components highlighted in the blog post are: customers/users, finding alternatives, ideation and prototyping, wicked problems, a wide range of influences and emotion.


On Technology and Social Media...

  • Patti Anklam, an expert on social media, fills us in on language and terms used in the social networking world.  Social media, she says, is “about both the technology and the social habits that are being entrained by our use of it,” leading her to categorize the terms she defines into three categories:  technology, practice and analysis.  The definitions she shares offer a working framework to more effectively have conversations about and utilize social media.
  • Larry Blumenthal shares seven lessons he learned about building an effective and communicative social media platform from his time at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  These lessons are particularly applicable to grantmakers but can be used by nonprofit organizations and grantseekers as well.
  • One of the many advantages of platforms like Twitter is that we have the ability to both communicate ideas and share tangible models and diagrams.  John David Smith of Digital Habitats shares a story about his interaction with someone who updated an existing ‘Tools Landscape diagram’, and posted it on Twitter.  Smith, in turn, saw the diagram and has further revised the model, simplifying the visual model but adding new layers of complexity to the ideas being shared.


Top Articles:

Author: Pete Plastrik

Date: March 8, 2010

Source: nuPolis blog

The case for Stakeholder Engagement

Author: Kathleen P. Enright and Courtney Bourns

Date: Spring 2010

Source: Standford Social Innovation Review

Why network thinking is different

Date: March 6, 2010

Source: Ed Morrison’s Garage

Need Help with Network Weaver Handbook

Author: June Holley

Date: March 7, 2010

Source: networkweaving blog

What Drives Philanthropic Success?

Author: Sean Stannard-Stockton

Date: March 12, 2010

Source: Tactical Philanthropy blog


Breakthroughs in Shared Measurement and Social Impact

Author: mark Kramer, Marcie Parkhurst, Lalitha Vaidyanathan

Source: FSG Social Impact Advisors

Using the Opportunity Process to Catalyze Self-Organization

Author: June Holley

Date: March 4, 2010

Source: Networkweaving blog

Design Thinking for Social Change

Author: Melinda Weekes

Date: March 5, 2010

Source: IISC blog


Author: Patti Anklam

Date: February 15, 2010

Source: Networks, Complexity, and Relatedness blog

Baby Steps and Other Lessons learned Implementing Social Media at a Foundation

Author: Larry Blumenthal

Date: March 12, 2010

Source: Open Road Advisors

Talking with strangers

Author: John David Smith

Date: March 8, 2010

Source: Digital Habitats