We recently had the pleasure of meeting Beth Kanter here in New Zealand for a workshop where we talked about best practices for social media engagement, brand monitoring, and content strategy. One of the many fantastic workshop activities involved mapping our organisation networks.
Taking time to think about the many contact points with our organisation was extremely valuable so I thought I would run through the process, so you can share what we did and how we planned to use the ideas and implement them into our work.
I actually found this particular session one of the most difficult due to the size of my organisation. I realised that I lacked a complete understanding of the various parts of the organisation or their connections. This in itself was quite valuable as I was able to identify sections of the organisation that I needed to investigate further. It also highlighted the importance of organisational knowledge in developing network maps.
When you plan your session I would recommend that you invite individuals from across the organisation so that collectively you have a broad understanding of the various parts of the organisation and affiliated groups and how you are connected.
We had at our disposal poster paper, marker pens and sticky notes with which to gather ideas and start drawing our maps. We began by thinking about the goals of our respective organisations and our communications and from there we were able to brainstorm a list of supporters, influencers, organisations and online resources with whom we were connected.
These were then stuck on poster paper and placed on the wall and as a group we began to think about the nature of those connections. We drew lines between these groups to reflect the relationship to our non-profit and gain insights about our network. Some of the things we considered were:
- What people, resources, and organizations were in our ecosystem?
- What were the different roles?
- If we were connected or not connected?
- If connected, how we were connected?
- We thought about the touch points in our network, how we were connected and the nature of those connections
- We also considered if the relationship was reciprocal, how we provided support or if we received support.
It was fascinating to look at the various network maps that were produced and the different ways that these relationships were represented.
Oxfam created a very graphic network map with different icons to represent the different types of connection between the organsation and external groups and individuals and included partner organisations and other non-profits workign int he same space.
They also included specific campaigns to which various groups were connected which I thought was an interesting idea and something that I intend to use. Often campaigns involve multiple agencies working to deliver changes within communties or to campaign government, but we sometimes work quite independently. It is interesting to look at those campaign relationships within the braod ecosystem of connections.
Auckland Action Against Poverty created a very dynamic network map. There was a strong emphasis on reciprocity within the network. Colour coded arrows indicated the nature and direction of the relationship and provided a sense of movement within the network. I found that this method of representing their network gave a very strong sense of where the orgsanisation was receiving support and provides a quick snap shot of the movement of information within the network.. If you have enough knowledge of orgasations and individuals within your network it would also help to identify the key influencers in your network and begin shape ideas about your communications strategy.
What I found interesting looking at all the network maps together is how they were connected to each other and that with more work they might for a “super network map” that connected all of our own networks into a single mega map.
Looking at them we began to think about how we might develop the relationships in our networks and how we might use social media to connect our offline and online relationships to help support our programs or communications goals. This idea is called network weaving and involves identifying ways to grow your influence through relationships, referrals, and recommendations by connecting the various parts of your network.
If you have the opportunity to attend a workshop with Beth Kanter I would highly recommend it. We left understanding our current situation and, having identified areas for improvement, we had a clear idea of what we needed to implement within our organisations.