Network of Network Professionals

This was the theme of the June meeting of the Network of Network Professionals in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It turned out to be a useful peer consultation. There were cases studies on a network of public libraries, a “lean innovation network”, and the province of South Holland, which I presented.

Together with Anne Marie Poorthuis, who developed the Network Analysis, I initiated the Network of Network Professionals several years ago. It has become a meeting point for professionals working with networks to share their ideas and experiences. There are three meetings per year, with a usual attendance of between twenty and thirty. Members come from a wide variety of sectors, yet encounter similar challenges.

The group was small this time, but the quality of the discussion was high. There was space to learn, for participants as well as contributors. The case about the libraries showed how change mainly came about because of an informal network of people who really wanted progress, in spite of many others who were in a survival mode. As a consultant, you have to accept that different people are in different gears regarding the process.

“Lean” is a fashionable concept at the moment. For a company it means doing only those things that create value for the client, cutting all other activities. The professional who told her story leads a learning network of entrepreneurs. It is time for a shift, maybe in the form of a “Future Foundation”, and we brainstormed about it in a “table cloth” discussion (see image).

I shared my experience with Province of South Holland’s network initiative. I also included my surprise that so much attention and energy is being spent on the internal process, bureaucracy, at the cost of approaching and experimenting with external partners in society. For me, it is important to remain patient and to see this as a point for enquiry. Where is the line between exercising caution and simple fear of the unknown? How can confidence be built up?