Hundreds of NGOs, stewardship groups and grassroots organizations are working to protect and restore the health of the Great Lakes. Their efforts, which span two countries, one province and eight states, include policy advocacy, ecosystem restoration, public awareness and community organizing.
Organizations have coordinated efforts for decades but since early 2014, representatives from numerous organizations from both countries have developed the beginnings of a Great Lakes binational network. The overarching goal is to provide tools and structure for bringing together diverse, independent groups in the Great Lakes region for the purpose of working together to improve water-related outcomes through collaboration, coordination, and information sharing. With the support of the CS Mott Foundation through 2016, the Sustainability Network will be using Social Network Analysis (SNA), supporting “network weaving” and organizing a learning network to support the development and strengthening of these freshwater organizations.
SOCIAL NETWORK ANALYSIS Strengthening networks starts by defining and understanding them. Social Network Analysis (SNA) involves mapping and measuring how organizations, groups and people connect and interact with one another. The approach uses visualization tools and numerical measures to understand the structure of networks and the relationships of organizations or individuals within them. SNA sheds light on patterns in relationships, the strength and nature of ties among groups, and the influence of particular organizations within the overall network. This mapping and analysis will take place through 2015 and will serve as a foundation for developing strategies and initiatives to make networks, and the organizations that comprise them, more efficient, effective and impactful.
NETWORK WEAVING Strategies and initiatives are developed through a process referred to as “network weaving.” Network weaving uses the SNA outputs to create new connections or interactions within networks – to help people identify specific partners with whom a new relationship might be mutually beneficial as it relates to having a particular influence or achieving a particular outcome.
A LEARNING NETWORK This project will also provide the leaders of the Great Lakes ENGO community an opportunity to explore and apply SNA and network weaving together through a Learning Network, a space where ideas of interest to the Great Lakes community can be introduced and developed. Great Lakes leaders will be convened for a Learning Network workshop – a multi-day, residential, professionally facilitated retreat in early 2016 that will provide a platform for building knowledge, peer learning and strengthening relationships.
The project will be jointly led by Paul Bubelis, Executive Director of Sustainability Network, and Tony Maas of Maas Strategies, an independent consultant with expertise in water policy and strategic coordination. The project will also engage the services of Ken Vance-Borland, a consultant specializing in the application of SNA and network weaving in the environmental sector.
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