Networks are critical to today’s movements. Increasingly, organizations find it necessary to work with a network of allies and partners in order to have an impact on the issues that matter to them. We support the emergence of these networks in developing shared values, common purpose, and movement-oriented strategies. We nurture these networks as they evolve organically, manage differences, and deepen their power. We also work with organizational leaders, boards, and staff to learn how to be effective in a networked context.
Through our consulting engagements and our work with the Network Leadership Innovation Lab - a program of dialogue, co-creation, and active learning with network leaders and funders - we are constantly learning and adapting our work with networks. Our evolving approach includes:
- Understanding the practical challenges of working and leading at the network and organizational levels and integrating them. To be effective, the organizations within a network must be aligned along a number of dimensions but also understand when agreement is not necessary. For leaders, balancing network and organizational leadership is very challenging. It is essential to hold the constraints and opportunities at multiple levels and to know when to step up and when to step back.
- Meeting networks where they are in terms of their development. We work with emerging networks in the process of making meaning of what is going on in their broader movement context and developing guiding principles. We also support more developed networks to determine new strategic intentions, goals, and structures. Finally, we help networks understand when it is time to bring a healthy end to longstanding organizational relationships.
- Supporting networks in working through conflict – in their movements and the network itself. In networks, conflict often arise over the varying levels of resources and capacities of member organizations, as well as issues of gender, race, class, and other inter-group dynamics. We help networks name and navigate these power dynamics and diversity of perspectives.
- Making meaning of what is happening in the network’s movements through facilitated discussions and various network analysis tools.
- Working with networks to be nimble, flexible, and adaptive in their culture, structures, roles, and strategies so they can remain relevant in the complex movement space.
- Assess networks to determine how well the network is functioning
- Support networks in their formation and initial structuring, including relationship-building, strategy development, and managing tensions and conflicts
- Develop and support leaders and committees within the network
- Design and facilitate convening spaces for the network and working groups
- Develop strategies and approaches to the work
- Design leadership, staff, and member roles within networks
- Create plans for joint fundraising
- Coach and develop individual network leaders and teams
- Support networks in ending and closing their relationships
Are you a membership association or federated organization?
We support membership organizations, federations, and other affiliate/national structures with managing transition and change, developing and adapting strategy, restructuring organizations and managing people, and developing leaders and boards. We help with member support strategy and structure, restructuring and aligning the membership, and strengthening headquarter-member relationships. We also create unique capacity building programs for affiliated organizations and foundation grantees to assess and build the capacity of their members.
In Our Client's Words
MAG was actually recommended to us by a funder of the Equally Blessed coalition. It was important to us to find a consultant that could work at the intersection of faith and social change/LGBT issues—not an easy niche to fill. MAG had multiple people who had relevant experience, and from the initial contact, they seemed excited about what we were trying to accomplish.
MAG’s consultants took time to get to know each individual organization and each representative to the Equally Blessed coalition, and brought that knowledge of goals and styles to our coalition meetings. MAG’s process encouraged us to dream big and then to turn the excitement generated into achievable goals. By helping us scale the work into time-bound projects, MAG helped us develop work plans that we used to evaluate our progress. We had something to hold ourselves and each other accountable to.
Being up front about what each group hoped for and brought to the coalition gave us a foundation for understanding the parameters of our work together. We strive for complementarity rather than equality of effort. In talking with other coalitions, many never get that concept, and resentments build. It has been helpful for us to have that embedded in our work from the beginning.
Most significantly, MAG’s people were invested in our work and our success. They were enthusiastic and supportive, even outside of contracted sessions. They helped us see where our efforts fit into the greater scheme of social justice movements, and elevated our sense of mission. It really felt like a partnership.
-Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA, Equally Blessed Coalition
Unstill Waters: The Fluid Role of Networks in Social Movements By Robin Katcher
The Coalition for Abortion Access and Reproductive Equity (Stories of Impact)
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