The Essential Relationship Network Evolution
My son got hurt six months ago. On a Tuesday afternoon, on the first real day of Spring, he was running around in the backyard on our cobblestone patio. Maybe it was partly the cooped up energy from a long winter inside, but he ran just a little too fast. He tripped over his own feet, sending his face right toward the corner of the brick steps to our house.
We had to take our daughter to the hospital, too. She didn’t want to go. She’d never seen so much blood and was scared. She’d rather have stayed at the house, but we didn’t have anybody to watch her. Sure, we had friends and neighbors, but we assumed none would be around so early on a Tuesday afternoon. And further, there was no way and no time for us to build a mass text message or start calling each of them one by one. We needed to go quickly.
At that moment, we could have really used a flare gun. We needed a way to notify our close friends and neighbors to see if anyone could help. Needing urgent support doesn’t happen very often — but when it does, you need help fast.
Leaning Forward is the New Leaning Back
Support is different than it used to be. We’re all electronically tethered but not truly connected. Social networks that allow us to watch the accomplishments and lives of others have devolved into trophy networks where people only share the “best of” moments of their lives. While that is good in ways, there is an absence of meaningful support and true connection. There is a lack of real community. Private networks, vertical networks, and close-in networks are the natural evolution of what we now understand as social networks.
Instead of basic connection, close-in networks are being built on a foundation of needs, where people are organizing to provide direct or indirect support to the people they care about. These micro-communities are small and geographically-focused.
These networks aren’t motivated to optimize underutilized resources for the maximum efficiency of the system like so many in the shared economy. They’re motivated by a more emotionally connected center where the micro-community is leaning forward to offer help and receive help in return. The best of them are measured so that they stay balanced, authentic, supportive, and equal in support.
Manage the Household Like a Small Business
Parenting is one of those vertical networks that has a hyper-local need for ongoing and occasional support. Households are just like small businesses. Parents manage a team of children and align against responsibilities. In most homes, a Chief Household Officer (CHO) takes lead on the responsibilities and manages internal and external resources to get everything done. They need efficient scheduling tools and clear terms with helpers.
For the 40 million two-parent working families (whether married or not), there aren’t sufficient tools to support this kind of resource management. The email, calendar, texting, and other transactional tools available are not focused on making household management (between both internal members and external resources) efficient.
At Little Helper, an Essential Relationship Network is a close-in network, focused on offering and receiving help to manage your household. We believe the primary objective of that network is to manage the day-to-day needs between the parents and nearby domestic resources (existing and new). The Essential Relationship Network is comprised of a handful of people you trust to help with both planned and unplanned events.
We believe these networks are filled with only a couple dozen people on whom you could rely for help within your home. Practically speaking, they are the sitters you trust to watch the kids, the friends and family who are nearby, and the neighbors to whom you’d lend a tool or a cup of sugar.
Whether it is asking someone to watch the kids on a recurring basis or just when you need to run to the emergency room, essential relationship needs are most often driven by a request for time. With a small, trusted, and forward-leaning network of resources, all you have to do is ask and someone should be there to help or help find someone who can — whether it’s for a planned event or something that completely blindsides you on an idle Tuesday.
However you do it, build your Essential Relationship Network. Invite the people you trust inside your home with your family to join you and reciprocate by offering to support them. Shift focus from the passive trophy networks in the newsfeeds of most social networks to a close-in dashboard of the needs of the peers around you.
Build a better, more supportive community for our families. Make the investment in helping others and be sure they’re there to help you, because you don’t always know when you might need something.
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Little Helper was a startup in Pittsburgh, PA that was singularly focused on giving Mom her time back by creating business-grade resource management tools for the household. By streamlining process and providing the right tools, we aimed to help her to regain a little bit of time to spend on herself — however she saw fit. This article was written as part of our work.