Will You Commit to Being a Network Weaver?

by Jim Rickabaugh

Networks are a pervasive presence in our society. They have become a core strategy for conducting research. Businesses also form and rely on networks to connect with customers and other businesses to build loyalty and provide flexible, customer focused service. Online dating networks are growing as well – estimates are that one in five recently married couples met online.

There is no doubt that participating in networks offers many benefits. We have access to the ideas, perspectives, and learning of others. We gain connections with others in and beyond the network to which we otherwise would not have been exposed.

When engaging in social change, such as creating public will to redesign the way we educate our youth, networks can be a powerful, supportive force. Bringing more voices to the work, adding diversity and energy to the effort, and building momentum to the conversation represent important building blocks for a social movement. Networks offer all of these elements, as well as a sense of belonging and shared mission. Yet, purposeful networks typically do not form by themselves.

There is a difference between networking as part of a network and network weaving. A colleague recently shared an interesting and informative blog post by Christine Capra that explored the role, value and work of network weaving. Network weaving involves deliberate efforts to make, build and strengthen social ties. Network weavers actively nurture and protect the health and existence of networks. Anyone can participate in and benefit from a network, but network weaving requires leadership. In fact, many argue that network weaving is part of our role and responsibility as leaders.

We have made much progress over the past decade to design and test a model to personalize learning that places learners at the center of education and their learning. However, moving this work into the mainstream and creating a social movement and momentum for widespread change requires extensive, powerful networks. Certainly, as advocates and practitioners for this model of learning we need to be active members of networks. However, we also need to be willing to lead and be network weavers.

Over the course of the coming year the Institute for Personalized Learning will be offering and organizing a variety of opportunities to join our network, engage in networking with like-minded organizations, and lead in our network and others. Please take advantage of these events and opportunities.

We also will be seeking new opportunities to continue to build our connections with other existing and emerging networks. If you know or learn of such an opportunity, please pass it along to anyone on the Institute team. We will be happy to share and promote.

When we began our work together almost a decade ago, it was based on the understanding of the power of networks to effect change and a commitment to build a network to support it. The strength of our network has surged and ebbed at times over the years. It is time to recommit to this vision and make it even more vibrant and impactful.

I challenge us as we begin this new school year to become leaders who are also network weavers. Make it a priority to identify and connect people who might be a part of this effort. Take responsibility to initiate and coordinate conversations, gatherings, and events to link people and promote our cause. Share with others the benefits of participating in personalized learning networking opportunities. Be the person who helps to weave our network into a movement for change. Our children’s futures depend on it.

Photo by Wei-Cheng Wu on Unsplash