The power of networks always surprises and amazes me

It really shouldn’t any longer. But it still does. Pleasantly. Which is a nice thing to experience on a workday. 🙂

Doing some work for a client this week meant reaching out to my network to bring participants into her work. I was hired to leverage my network and connections with people they have had trouble reaching.

I know I have a strong network. Made up of amazing people who give, share, connect, and want to collaborate as much as possible. And it’s grown remarkably stronger during COVID, especially on LinkedIn, my main online network for sharing and connecting.

But, I’m never sure how an ask might go. Will it be of interest? Will it make people take action? Will it reach folks? I believe the topic area is important and might be seen that way by others. But I wasn’t sure.

I selected a number of people to reach out to directly, and then shared them on LinkedIn. Both seem to have had the right impact. And I’ve also reached out directly to people who I follow on LinkedIn, but don’t have a 1st level connection with. 

I have to say, I’ve been super happy with the reaction. I’ve had good responses via email. But an even larger response on LinkedIn. Numerous folks have shared it, reaching 2nd and 3rd-level contacts I’m not connected to. 

Super exciting. And a constant reminder of the power of digital reach, scale, and weak tie networks. 

I ponder this on occasion. 

  • The connections I have
  • The information I can find and access
  • The people I can reach out to I don’t know and who don’t know me

All because of the internet. 

I’m old enough to remember that if I wanted to get a book or journal article that wasn’t in my local library, I had to, well, first of all even somehow know it even existed, and then apply for an inter-library loan. Weeks, months of time sometimes to get the information.

Now? A search. 

  • Information in the search result. 
  • If it’s publicly available, a click to read, or download and read. 
  • Information and connection information about the author or researcher who I can reach out to and, more often than not, will respond or even give me access to behind-the-password information, reports, and resources.

It all still blows my mind.

And my first point leads to my second. 

As much experience as we have with digital, there are always things to learn and explore. 

Even with everything we have access to, there is still so much to learn. Still so many nuances in the information we find and our need to personalize it. To customize it for our needs. 

I had a conversation with a peer who is looking for specific information this week. They have lots of experience in what they wanted to talk about.  There are many resources out there. But there are nuances she wasn’t finding.

I was able to share some resources that I thought were in the ballpark, but they weren’t quite what she needed. 

She elaborated a bit more and now I want to learn more too! She’s going to share what she finds, and so will I. I’ll continue to look into it. It’s important and useful to me. And what I find she’ll find useful, and vice-versa.

All of this leads me to my final thought. We can’t do this work alone, we need to collaborate. I had a meeting with a sector funder this week to talk about digital and hybrid service strategy. In part to tell them about some progress I’m making on some specific priority areas for our sector. In part to find out where they are at.

The thing is, over the acknowledged part of the pandemic (we’re in heavy denial these days), these conversations happened. They were strong, open, and more transparent, even if they couldn’t all be recorded and shared.

And then things dropped off. I’ve written about this elsewhere. And I thought that in priority areas they indicated 2 years ago that they would be working on, surely they are. And, of course, they were. But in their silos. In fact, they feel like they have a strategy and framework in place. But if it’s not being shared for consultation, discussion, evolution, etc., what’s the point?

And then today a newsletter came into my inbox with an important message about what our sector needs in order to face an uncertain, emergent, accelerating, digital future. It was a great message that also included other voices. Awesome. 

But you know what it was missing? 


Open dialogue within the sector. Open dialogue with funders. We had some of that over the past 3 years. But we’ve gone back to the old, backroom, closed-door ways. It’s not the way to move forward. I’ve written about this elsewhere

It ended with a call for advocacy. I support this call. But advocacy without transparency is not the way we should do things. We need to have a deep discussion about how we communicate and collaborate as a sector.

This leads me to my final bonus point. I submitted a workshop proposal for an upcoming conference. I found out this week that my proposal was rejected, which is fine. I decided I still liked the idea, so I’m running my webinar on the topic! We’ll see how it goes.

It’s focused on dialogue. Bringing sector folks together to share and learn based on their experiences and needs. Hopefully we’ll see more of that this year.

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