If you want to change the world, teach!

Teaching future Net-Mappers at the International Food Policy Research Institute was a pleasure: Highly motivated participants, who bombarded my co-trainer Noora-Lisa Aberman an me with questions, from the very concrete (How to deal with an arrogant interview partner who thinks board game pieces are below him?) to the philosophical (How are truth and perception related?). Some of them had very concrete projects in mind when they signed up for the training, one even brought the draft of a paper where he wanted to use a Net-Map to visualize the complex results. Now today I am back in my office and receive the first preliminary results from participants of this year’s Summer School in Italy and all of this made me take one step back and think about the impact of teaching as compared to other things I spend my time with (e.g. implementing projects for people and organizations). I looked at it from a network perspective: If you are just one individual with a good idea but no large organization or funds but the desire to have an impact, what should you do? Implement projects for clients? Teach implementers? Or train trainers? I intuitively knew the answer, but still, drawing the three networks that would develop through these different strategies, I was overwhelmed when I understood the scale in which these approaches differ… If you implement 6 projects you implement 6 projects. By training 6 students who each implement 3 projects, you achieve 18 projects. If you focus on training 6 trainers, who each train 3 students, who each implement 3 projects, you move up to 54 projects…

If you implement 6 projects you implement 6 projects

Now I know from experience that training, learning and spreading new ideas is much more complex than an easy multiplication. I have trained some trainers who have by now turned into co-owners of the method, putting about as much passion into it as I do, talking, breathing, eating and dreaming Net-Map and teaching it whereever they go… While others of my students were happy to attend a training in good company but have never had the actual opportunity to use Net-Map in their work. So if I mapped out the actual map, with myself in the middle and all the people I have worked with and trained around me, it would be a less symetric map. Which also reminds me that it is not just the fact that you conduct trainings: Train good people and train them well!

If you teach 6 who each implement 3 project, your efforts lead to 18 projects

But still, the general truth remains: If you are a little person who thinks she/he has a great idea, go teach. And don’t be afraid of “giving your knowledge away”. It’s not like money, which, once you have given it away, alas, is not in your pocket any more. If you share your ideas freely and teach people to the point where they can become teachers, you will see your ideas grow, morph, develop and something overwhelming might come out of it, which you never would have achieved on your own.

If you teach 6 trainers who teach 3 students each who implement 3 projects each, your effort leads to 54 projects

2 Responses

  1. This is a fantastic post. I am a firm believer that each of us is a teacher. We all have something to share and we all have something to learn from each other. I believe this is what makes conferences like accus so successful.

    It would be interesting to a (I be it perhaps impossible) to do a net mapping session on a whole conference such as acuss.

    On another note: I am still working on finding the best story to do a net mapping on. I have been working with my students in class on predictions and outcomes with stories. I am excited about the possibilities.

    • Hi Patty,
      Mapping a conference… how would that work? You could have a large wall with all the participants put on cards. Now every time they do something (you pre-define some linkes) with another person, they can go and draw a link. However, to keep it from being extremely messy, you might want to limit the links, so that they don’t map every conversation. Or, towards the end of the conference, you ask them to draw links to the three people they got most inspiration from, the three people they had the best laugh with and the three people they really wanted to talk to but somehow missed. Or something like that. The only thing that I am a bit wary about is that as far as I’m concerned conferences should be events where everyone can feel like they are just a normal person, no superstars, no pressure to be more or less social than you feel. If you draw the map without much care and discussion, those people who receive no links can leave the conference really frustrated or doubting themselves. And some people will come out to be the superstars in terms of being funny, inspiring or elusive but interesting. I once facilitated the mapping of a community of practice and it led to a lot of bad feelings in the room, when the superstars and the lurkers emerged on paper…

      With regards to your pre-schooler mapping, please let’s discuss more, once you have ideas and questions that you want to bounce off me.

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