3 Key Topics for the NetSquared Community: Part 1, Local and Global

Amy Sample Ward's picture

Like so many people working on projects focused on the issues, technologies and strategies that help strengthen communities, we spent the end of 2010 reflecting on our findings (check out the year-in-review post series). As we dash forward with our plans for 2011, the NetSquared team would like to begin a dialogue with our users around the evolution of the NetSquared initiative.

Recent conversations with community members surfaced three key topics that we’ll be exploring in a series of posts over the coming weeks: The Inter-Play Between Local & Global Programs, Expanding & Evaluating Impact, and Developing a Compelling Network Narrative.

As we share our early thinking about these areas of our work, we hope you’ll help to shape our thinking and direction by sharing your ideas, feedback and questions in the comments, or directly with us at net2@techsoup.org

The Interplay Between Local & Global Networks

From our perspective, there are a few primary ways to develop programs: Top-down; Bottom-up or a hybrid approach that aims to strike a balance between the two.

  • Top-down: The organization determines the content, activities and plans, then distributes the plan to members to implement. (For example, a company with various locations, like Starbucks)
  • Bottom-up: The organization creates a platform for local community to organize themselves around the actions, content and plans that are most valuable to them. (For example, Crisis Commons)
  • Hybrid: Mixing the strengths of top-down and bottom-up with focus on striking a balance between needs of local participants, the global network and the NetSquared program. (For example, Wikipedia’s strategic plan process.)

With all of NetSquared’s programming (the NetSquared Blog, Local and Camps - LINKS), from the outset, we have been deliberate about designing a hybrid approach to our work for a number of reasons. We feel that our unique position in the world as a convener, aggregator and delivery mechanism for both informational assets and tools, coupled with the relational capital at TechSoup Global, provides us with a strong position for creating a framework for networks and communities of practice to flourish.

Local Planning

The above logic drives our approach to local events (built on the success of the “Meetup” and Barcamp models) and provides local volunteers to self-organize, design, and reuse any number of NetSquared’s global assets and resources to the benefit of their communities. In recent weeks, we’ve been designing plans for local and regional event activities for 2011 including:

NetSquared Local - Support another round of content swarms to build out the Organizer Handbook, develop peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and support, and plan for regional training opportunities.

NetSquared Camps - Hold more events, in more countries while building in the option for a local Challenge (learn more and share your feedback on the announcement post).

The Interplay Between Local & Global Programs

Currently, most of the interplay between local and global programs requires intermediaries (our team) to relay stories, opportunities, resources and content back and forth between organizers and communities with those managing TechSoup Global as well as partners, sponsors, and funders. What if we could get out of the way? No one likes a bottleneck or a gatekeeper, but we definitely don’t need more information without context, either. As much as we want to create systems and opportunities for NetSquared Local organizers to support each other directly, we also want it to be just as easy and just as accessible for Local organizers to better define what’s needed and what’s developing in the community with national and global funders and other organizations.

We would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations about our thinking, our approach and the interplay between the local and global level of our work.

Some questions to get you started:

  • What do you think about the collaborative design - how would you modify or improve it?
  • Where can we improve or change?
  • How would you design for local communities to connect at the global level?