Yesterday was the first day of the Network of Network Funders gathering. It was my kind of gathering — great crowd, thoughtful conversations, strong design (a Diana Scearce staple), incredible stories.
Wanted to share three observations from yesterday:
Holding the tension. Working with networks from a position of traditional, institutional power is a tricky business. But doing it successfully is not about giving or wishing away that power. It’s about holding all the different tensions in balance: sharing control without losing it entirely, using your power to empower others, being open without putting your network at risk.
Fight the organizational mindset. The natural challenge for folks from foundations is fighting an organizational mindset. Folks here are doing pretty well, and they can do better. Focus on verbs, not nouns — network weaving vs network weavers, governing vs governance.
Own your power! There’s a psychological phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. In short, people who are incompetent tend to overestimate their abilities; people who are highly competent tend to underestimate their abilities. Dunning-Kruger (the good kind) is rampant here.
The people in this room are really, really smart and well-versed in practice — moreso than many consultants I know. They need to step out of the mindset that they are only funders and step into their roles as thought leaders and action partners. Don’t pretend away the power dynamic. It will always be there. Channel it by sharing your knowledge in partnership with other stakeholders with humility, and continuing to do and to learn.
You can follow today’s conversation on Twitter by following the #netfunders hashtag.