I am so excited! By posting the invitation to our Net-Map training on the email lists of MandE (Rick Davies’ great Monitoring and Evaluation platform) and KM4Dev (Knowledge Management for Development) I have spurred an absolutely unexpected wave of reactions. We offer the option to participate in the workshop online and I have received applications from as diverse countries as Zimbabwe, Nepal, UK and Bangladesh. But what really thrills me are the answers to my questions: “What is your background, have you used social network analysis and/or participatory approaches before, how do you think you will use Net-Map in your work?”
I get the feeling that we will have a group of students, scholars and practitioners with a diverse range of practical and academic experiences and I believe that I will learn about as much from my participants as they will from me. And, as some of those interested in the training live in really incompatible time zones (Who wants to be in the office 3 a.m. to attend a seminar?), have unreliable internet access or busy schedules, we are planning to record the workshop and burn it on CD for those who could not attend.
Why the prospect of meeting these diverse participants online and off-line excites me? Because, of three hypothesis about innovativeness of networks and the points where innovation happens in the network:
The strength of weak ties (A classic, here (429 K) a paper where Granovetter revisits his own argument): You get your new ideas/contacts/perspectives from those people you don’t interact with every day (your closest friends and colleagues will have a very similar knowledge and contacts as you have, as you have spent so much time exchanging information already).
Innovativeness of heterogeneous networks: Most networks have a tendency to mature towards a state of homogeneousness. That’s great for stability but a killer for innovation, because no-one is there to challenge your beliefs or cross unusual thoughts to breed new ideas.
Innovativeness through networks with open fringes, that are dynamic over time: A network that can accommodate and release members in a flexible way over time, will be able to learn from the freshness of their experience and maintain a regular influx of new ideas and new connections.
By the way, a great post on the art of having innovative ideas: “Ceci n’est pas un pipe” by Mark Gould