Building a Global Network

Are you the friend people come to asking

Do you have any friends in Guam? I’m going out there in a few weeks.

Can you give my friend some advice? He is going to Colombia for the first time.

Do you know any recruiting agencies in Thailand? I need to recruit 500 construction workers.

Do you know where I can rent a car in Dakar?

Can you put me in touch with your friends from Martinique? Need advice on surfing and a place to stay.

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2014 Visualization of my Facebook Network[/caption]

In my network, I am that person and these were actual questions I was recently asked. I am always happy to share the information with my people and by extension, their people. I have been fortunate enough to benefit from other people’s networks and want to keep up the transfer of tips, people, and assistance. As we say on the Internationality In the Know page, there is nothing that can take place of first-hand knowledge and suggestions from people who live there.

I am not a digital native, so I built my core network the old fashion way — meeting and exchanging addresses and phone numbers of people on each of my trips. In 1997, I studied in Bahia, Brazil. There I met a group of fellow American college students. Twenty years later, we are spread across the globe but still in relatively consistent contact offering support for each other’s projects and efforts to continue to actively participate in changing the world. From this small network, I met around thirty other globalcreators.

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
Jane Howard

When Friendster was the network, I remember a girlfriend from middle school describing it to me over drinks as a guilty pleasure for “shameless self-promotion.” I registered as soon as I got home. The ability to reconnect with people from my past was amazing. I found someone I went to school with in Abidjan in the late 80s, another guy I had met on an 8th-grade graduation cruise around the Caribbean, and of course the people from my burgeoning globalcreating network. As more social networks came online, I found myself living and commuting between Buenos Aires and Lima. My international network was growing in the professional and social arenas.Around this time I was also invited to join ASmallWorld and Internations, both social networks with large global footprints, invitation only membership, and constraints on how you can contact members to whom you are not connected. My slick skinning of MySpace pages, blog about African fashion designers, and work as the public-facing representative for a web development firm meant I was constantly getting friend requests from around the world. While my natural inclination was to reject anyone I didn’t personally know, I learned to advantages of reviewing people’s profiles instead of summarily rejecting them. Around this time I was also invited to join ASmallWorld and Internations, both social networks with large global footprints, invitation only membership, and constraints on how you can contact members to whom you are not connected.

Expanding my online networks to include the requests from people I didn’t personally know but whom shared a connection and industry helped to propel my career forward. I received opportunities to promote a fashion show in Swaziland; to create and stock an online store with ethically sourced people positive products from across Africa; set up a girls scholarship program funded by Qatari youth, rebrand a community outreach program in Palestine, design a line of Black Greek apparel in China and Peru, work on a film in Cape Verde, speak at conferences, and numerous others which have kept my life interesting.

Building and maintaining an international network is the key to globalcreating, I agree with Florence Adu, an Internationality member, who said, “Use your network to help open doors.” While you may apply blind to a volunteer opportunity or job that you see published on this site, it doesn’t hurt to look up the organization on LinkedIn to see if you already know someone who is working there. Take a look at a visual representation and analysis of your network using tools from Socialab.

My Social Lab Scores
Effective Size: 92.53% Shows most of my contacts to not know each other.
Network Constraint: 88.52% Shows my network spans different groups.

It’s not only work that can expand your base. Activity groups like Hash House Harriers or Capoeira Angola Center both have strong international networks. Friends from these groups describe how they can land in a new city and have an instant people.

Perhaps for me, it was slightly easier, I have a fair amount of childhood friends who moved abroad. The number increases when speaking of college and including those who did a study abroad, participated in an international volunteer program, taught English overseas; or simply chose to be expats. If you don’t have this existing base, I encourage you to join our Facebook community where through discussion with our multi-national members you can begin to build your own globalcreating network.

By the way, I was able to successfully answer all the opening queries with the help of a few friends.