A networked organisation

Last week I wrote about a networked mindset and what that might mean, based on my last 7 years with the Point People. Now, at Doteveryone, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a networked organisation — the whole team has. In the same way that we believe digital is not just something that you do, but something that you are, the same is true for being networked.

And let’s just be clear, even if it is just stating the obvious, being networked is not the same as networking.

For us, the most important aspect of being a networked organisation is how you can work with power differently, as a way to influence change — it is part of our organisation and project theories of change. What can we do together that we can’t do alone? Mary Beard articulates the idea of collective power brilliantly in this article.

That means thinking about power differently. It means decoupling it from public prestige. It means thinking collaboratively, about the power of followers not just of leaders. It means above all thinking about power as an attribute or even a verb (‘to power’), not as a possession.

What it means to be a networked organisation

We realised we’d all been referring to ourselves as a “networked organisation” but hadn’t ever articulated what we meant by that. Irit and I facilitated a session with the team to work out what being a networked organisation means for Doteveryone. It means:

  1. We know that to have influence and impact we need to co-ordinate our effort with others
  2. We understand the interdependencies of the challenges we are trying to address and how the world is changing
  3. We can better understand our audiences, stakeholders and partners etc.
  4. Because of that, we will have a better understanding of the most useful and relevant role for us to play in influencing change, and how best to contribute to or amplify others’ work.
  5. It creates others ways for us to bring in more diversity.
  6. We’ll feel authentic because how we work (through networked power) reflects a necessary shift that many organisations need to go through — away from hierarchal power.
“Large scale impact has moved beyond simply challenging or entrepreneuring or being an intermediary — it involves opening up new connections between pieces of the world that were disparate. “
Anne-marie Slaughter

Given how important being networked is to us, we know that our networks should be intentional, designed and maintained. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s book, The Chessboard and The Web re-affirmed this.

Putting it in to practice

So far we’ve tried two things. We’ve mapped out the different network expertise we each have using the questions below.

This was done as a conversation with each team member. We now need to work out how to make this information shared and useful across the team.

We’ve also listed out some of the activity we expect to do as a “networked organisation.” So far the list includes the following:

  • Spending time outside of the organisation, sensing what is happening, where — horizon scanning.
  • Listening well.
  • Understanding our role and how to be useful to others.
  • Convening events and attending events — and documenting that in ways that is useful to others.
  • Being generous and not transactional in our interactions – it’s all about trust and goodwill.
  • Building up intelligence outside of the organisation about who has expertise and insight into different areas of work and making that useful to the Doteveryone team and to our peers and partners etc.
  • Identifying opportunities for others, as well as Doteveryone.
  • Reporting back in team meetings about what’s happening in the network — including experimenting with how to articulate the value of investing in this kind of activity as something distinct and important within our work.

Those are the ways we are testing out how to be a networked organisation. We’d love to hear from others who are investing in this. We’ve also been gathering a great reading list in our #networkedage Slack channel — I’ve pulled out a few good ones below.

And thank you to Irit, for all the great slides.