How to think like a network… on fire

As I mentioned last month, I gave a 5-minute Ignite talk called “”How to think like a network (a.k.a. Five aspects of effective networks in five minutes)” at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference. It’s the latest version of my ongoing rant/spiel about network-centric advocacy. Below is a video of my talk with the actual slides underneath so that you can follow along at home. Think you can keep up?

(Apologies for how Slideshare mangles the design of the slides!)

How to keep thinking like a network

I had a great time today at the 2010 N.C. Tech for Good Conference. (Izzy enjoyed the reception afterward.)

I did a talk called “How to think like a network,” which is my latest iteration of my favorite subject: the five aspects of effective networks, a.k.a. network-centric advocacy. I’ve been talking to nonprofits, geeks, and activists about this approach for five years now (!) and while the technology has changed a lot, I think the strategy is as relevant as ever.
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Reality check for grassroots organizers

It’s so obvious, but nobody does it. We say we’re working for “The People” (or poor people, or immigrants, or women, or African Americans, or whoever) but do we really accept their leadership? Do we even listen to the voices we think we are empowering?

Zack Exley’s manifesto “An Organizer’s Guide to Trusting the People” lays out a network-centric approach if I ever heard one.

Those and other experiences like them gradually woke me up. I started approaching groups of workers with the assumption that they were, taken as a whole, savvy and strategic, not apolitical and apathetic. That opened the door to all kinds of great collaborations. I started assuming these groups of people were strong, deep, strategic and concerned — “even if they were” made up of Evangelical Christians, survivalists, muscle car drivers, trailer park dwellers, pit bull breeders, and anything else my Northeastern Liberal upbringing had taught me to ridicule.
An Organizer’s Guide to Trusting the People

To me this isn’t just something that it helps to think about when organizing or to try to believe, it’s something that I must believe to be an activist and organizer. In fact, it’s fundamental to the whole idea of network-centric advocacy. The People = The Network. They collectively are the leaders, our job as organizers is create tools and infrastructure that allows them to do their thang.

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