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Growth through Networking Part 1

A recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article talked about the networked social enterprise. Not only in terms of connecting with other organisations as would be understood by the for-profit sector but instead organisations that can stay small, but ‘sharing their load with like-minded, long-term partners’. The gist of the article is that these ‘networked nonprofits’ could focus less on growing themselves and more on cultivating their networks.

I agree with one half of the point – that better networking can lead to joint ventures or sharing of services. I am not sure that this is an alternative to growth or that it adds to sustainability in the long term. In the commercial sector there is a huge amount of networking that goes on from conferences to the ‘First Tuesday’ type event for start-ups. There isn’t as much of this in the social sector, where organisations tend to stick to their own sectors.

We need more cross-pollinisation in the sector. Online locations like Facebook (where many voluntary and in particular charity organisations are now getting a presence)  and LinkedIn (still mostly being used by people in the for-profit sector) are a good start. But one feels there should be more face-to-face opportunities for networking. Perhaps there is an opportunity here for someone, as evidence shows that locations that have a variety of networking opportunities (think Silicon Valley) are the ones that tend to be more innovative as people learn from each other and join up to do new and exciting things together.

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  1. February 1, 2010 at 17:19

    I certainly agree that the sector needs to network more, for a variety of reasons. Using existing technology as suggested is a good first step. Being involved in a local business chamber, which is something that any social enterprise can do, is a another connection but at a local level. Here there are opportunities to generate new business or save money by getting access to potentially cheaper services. What the sector could with is a ‘business chamber’ type structure where organisations join as members and meet face to face. I agree that networks are better where there is direct contact and relationships can be built. Besides the benefits referred to above,there would also be opportunities to share good practise, and learn from each other as.

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