Client Journal – The ‘aha’ moment

Originally written: Thursday, April 18, 2013
An exciting session with clients today.

My work is helping people who are accustomed to working in a hierarchical way to make room in their repertoire for working in a networked way.  They are embedded in a hierarchy but when they want to work on engaging their constituents, they need to shift their thinking – and it’s hard – it takes time and conversation and dialogue because it’s so far away from their experience of what it possible.

I need to say things like “what would happen if we tried it this way.”  It’s soo exciting when that ‘aha’ happens like it did today!

We were talking about how to get staff onto the new web-platform.  And our introductory buddy system visit (see blog post ) worked well so we had leaders identified who were ready to go.

My clients wanted to go back to planning mode, which is their comfort zone, get teams ready to go into the platform as a group — like the marines – no man left behind – and I said: “what about if we just let the people who are ready start now.”  The teams can reflect on and organize themselves after we have some action and facts on the ground in two weeks from now.

A light bulb went off — all of a sudden they did not have to carry their team members on their back into the platform — it was every man and woman for themselves.  It was exhilarating.

Also a little scary.  But I reassured them the order and structure emerge from the activities of the individuals. Instead of hierarchical control – we have other means of control – like peer pressure, norms, policies, taxonomies, technology structures.

It takes practice and reinforcement to keep the light bulb lit – but I know over time it will become second nature. And then my job is done.

At least until the community moves into another phase of its development.

A Family Engagement Community of Practice: A Case Study of a Collaboration Model

Monday, April 15, 2013 – By Naava Frank and Lara Nicolson
JCSA Journal of Communal Service, March 2013

How can you take a group of local federated agencies working in a similar fi eld— some competing, some working in synergy, some unaware of the others’ existence—and bring them together to have a profound impact on a critical sector of the Jewish community? This article tells the story of 12 months in the life of a Community of Practice (CoP) that shaped a collaborative culture among seven agencies of THE ASSOCIATED: Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and led to a shared grant for a project maximizing the impact of their work with Jewish families with young children. This article shares the successes, challenges, and learning from the perspective of the community facilitators and members. We hope that it will help other Jewish organizations use the CoP model of collaboration to strengthen professional networks. Although work with human systems may not always be replicable, the CoP model described here can be adapted with thoughtful consideration to differences in context.

JCSA Journal – Family Engagement CoP

Launching HaReshet at AVI CHAI: Pilot Program in Jewish Network-Weaving

Posted on January 8, 2013  – Written by Deborah Fishman for

A year ago, I set out on a journey to understand how Jewish professionals are acting as network-weavers. I started by interviewing trailblazers who are activating their organizations’ constituencies towards common goals. I met community organizers advocating for causes from new educational models to environmental consciousness in the Jewish community. I encountered group facilitators sparking conversation on best practices in using technology in day schools and growing vibrant synagogues. I spoke with those engaging alumni, young Jews, and other target populations to become active, lifelong Jewish learners. Some of these interviews were featured here on eJewishPhilanthropy. These conversations led me to realize that Jewish professionals working with networks in a diversity of settings would benefit tremendously from resources on network-weaving within and beyond a Jewish context – including one another. I first wrote here about the idea of providing this through a training program for network-weavers.
In my role as Director of Communications for The AVI CHAI Foundation, I am creating a laboratory for experimentation around how network-weaving can be applied to improve the effectiveness of Jewish organizations in engaging their constituencies. From November 2012 to August 2013, in HaReshet (“The Network”), a pilot group of AVI CHAI grantees are learning together about network-weaving; developing and practicing skills in a guided and reflective way; and benefiting from sharing lessons with one another along the journey.
Grantees were selected for this pilot program based on two criteria. First, they see the value of their organizations as networks working toward a particular goal. Second, someone is currently on staff with time allocated to work with this network and help it achieve its potential. These criteria match the intention of HaReshet to help expedite the work of organizations who will regardless be exploring the frontier of building networks this year. I am truly excited to be working with the following participants:

  • Frayda Goshor-Cohen and Luba Yusim from the Consortium of Applied Jewish Studies in Jewish Education, managed by Rosov Consulting: Connecting researchers, practitioners and philanthropists in the field of Jewish education;
  • Gary Hartstein from DigitalJLearning, a project of the Jewish Education Project: Networking Jewish day schools which are implementing online and blended learning;
  • Jane Cohen from Day School Leadership Training Institute of the Davidson Graduate School of Education at JTS: Activating the alumni network of graduates of the DSLTI professional development program, which trains and supports heads of Jewish day schools;
  • Debbie Feinstein and Yael Bailey from the Jewish New Teacher’s Project (JNTP), a project of the New Teacher Center: Creating a network of alumni of its programs, which accelerate the effectiveness of beginning teachers in Jewish day schools;
  • Rebecca Braverman of Reshet Ramah of the National Ramah Commission; Creating a network of Ramah alumni; and
  • Miriam Cohen and Drorit Farkas of TaLAM: Creating a network of teachers using the TaL AM curriculum of Hebrew Language Arts and Jewish Studies.

HaReshet brings alive a vision of how network-weaving is not just new content to be learned. Rather, it is a mindset and approach, which the program itself embodies. Instead of top-down lectures, blended in-person and online webinars accommodating participants both within and beyond New York City enable the interactive discussion of network concepts. Instead of passive learning, participants are required to actively apply the material through exercises between the monthly webinars.
Also critical to network-weaving is the belief that learning is not unidirectional. As the Jewish chevruta model recognizes, there is tremendous value in learning – and in learning together. This concept is particularly relevant to the emerging field of network-weaving, where some may have more experience in working with networks, but we all stand to learn from one another. In HaReshet, each participant is paired with a chevruta partner experienced in network-weaving who will coach him or her to achieve specific personal and professional goals. Our esteemed chevruta partners are: Miriam Brosseau of The Jewish Education Project/ Darim Online (See3), Caren Levine of Etheoreal, Lisa Colton of Darim Online (See3), Liz Fisher of Birthright NEXT, Naava Frank of YU Institute for University-School Partnership, and Sara Shapiro-Plevan of Rimonim Consulting.
Ultimately, in a woven network, the discrete components add up to a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The AVI CHAI Foundation in North America invests in a wide range of initiatives that further Jewish literacy, religious purposefulness, and peoplehood/Israel at Jewish day schools and summer camps. While grantees are united around these three core values, they each represent a different path toward making them come to life. Given that AVI CHAI is sunsetting in 2020, it is especially important to the foundation to leave a legacy of strong organizations that can consciously articulate and promote the values to future generations. Part of this work may be to bring together grantees who perceive themselves as operating in very different contexts and helping them understand the ways in which they are working toward similar goals. HaReshet hopes to enable the individual participating networks to grow and each network-weaver to achieve greater confidence and mastery in acting in this role. It also may be one place where grantees can benefit not only from the value of the program, but also the value of access to one another. In doing so, they may begin to think about how they are a part of and can enhance a bigger picture.
At the same time, I have realized the deep importance not just of network-weaving as a concept, but of the individual network-weavers themselves. Their skills, personalities, and dedication greatly influence the ways their networks develop, and are in many cases what enables their networks to take off. I am privileged to work with and learn from so many passionate and talented network-weavers, and look forward to what we can achieve together.
Deborah Fishman is Director of Communications at The AVI CHAI Foundation.





How to Be A Network Weaver by Deborah Fishman and Naava Frank

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

See the article that Deborah and I wrote in the HaYidion Journal – P. 46.

The term “network weaver” occurs throughout this issue. This article provides a job description and suggestions for operational techniques for this newest of occupations. Along with tips for 5 practical tasks of a network weaver.

  1. Identify the strengths and gifts of those in your network
  2. Help people with common interests connect
  3. Encourage complex reciprocity
  4. The importance of diverse perspectives
  5. Grow more network weavers

PDF of Frank and Fishman Network Weaver

Happy Weaving!