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Networks of Networks
Alex Steffen, 5 Nov 04

An observation Jerry Michalski made to me yesterday mirrored so closely a series of other recent conversations that I thought it's time to write about it: There's a network of worldchanging networks struggling to be born. It could use some midwifery.

Within individual fields, professions and dicsciplines, some phenomenal networks have emerged. What's lacking are the connections between those networks. As we said when starting Worldchanging, " works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together."

(more if you click "permalink" below)

Based on the frequency with which these ideas come up in conversation, this seems not only still true, but more urgently needed.

An example. In the last couple weeks, I've received emails about the following programs:

*Metropolis magazine's Next Generation design prizes (for "Big Design Idea[s that] will benefit people and the environment, and will challenge design professionals to create human-centered products, environments, and communication systems.");

*The World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders Program (CoI alert: I was nominated), which aims to get youngish folks to work together to "devote their energy and expertise for five years to tackle the most critical issues facing the world."

*Stanford's Digital Vision Program, which helps sharp, public-minded geeks develop programs to do things like create volunteerism development banks, microfinance services, telemedicine pilots, and other ideas "to leverage technology-based solutions in the interest of humanitarian, educational, and sustainable development goals."

*The Environmental Leadership Program (CoI alert: I know some of these folks), which "supports talented emerging environmental leaders from academia, government, business, and nonprofit organizations through intensive retreats, networking and training opportunities, and a small grants fund to support innovative and practical environmental projects."

*The socially-entrepreneurial Ashoka Fellows and the culturally-entrepreneurial Creative Capital grantees.

How often have folks from these programs (and the networks they represent) been in the same rooms, discussing shared problems from different angles, learning to triangulate innovation from varied perspectives and experience?

Not often enough, I'm sure is the answer.

How much do they know about one another's best ideas, new approaches, fondly-held hopes and most inspired tools?

Now much, I'd wager.

If we're going to get serious about changing the world, that needs to change.

We need to start building networks of networks, start putting the pieces together.

(This, by the way, is our 1,500th recommendation.)

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I'm working as fast as I can on the software. Really.

Posted by: Vinay on 5 Nov 04

Alex, perhaps those who participate in these forums should be invited to author sections of the "Bright Green Wiki."

Posted by: David Foley on 6 Nov 04



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