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Story of the Wiki

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First, to be clear, the WHO is ALL OF US. We chose to develop this content using technology precisely because it facilitates sharing and collaboration. We know that many of our friends, colleagues and those in the broader community have as much good thinking about networks and advocacy as we do. This is our chance to develop a shared resource for the benefit of all. Read our community agreement here.


Because we see and have experienced the power of networks. We also know that many advocates and activists could greatly benefit from sustained conversation around the idea of the network.

How? The process

We've actually struggled quite a bit getting this wiki up and running. We've worked with wikis before, and although they have powerful potential they also require a decent amount of nurturing and care. We'll start documenting our weekly developments on the site, for the greater benefit of those interested in the site's structure, and also for those working with wikis.

April 4-April 15 Marty: We had a great run of testing the content with the Chesapeake Bay NEMO group, the Barr Foundation (and the network gurus they work with) and a variety of groups that weave networks in Boston. Finally, Marty spent time with the Alliance for Healthy Tomorrow. In each case, there were great new stories (Brazilian and Dominican social networks active in Boston) to the hard work of getting down to network action plans with organizers pushing to create ties across class, religious and racial divides. The content and presentations are going over well we are also slowly encouraging people to come to the wiki to learn more and follow up on the presentations.

March 30-April 4 Karen: This week I've been plugging away with the Case Studies. Still loads to write, and they all need to be linked to the various other pages. But there are so many good stories to tell. People have been suggesting that in addition to the concrete tips, the case studies are some of the most interesting content on the site. I also met with Neil Watkins of the Jubilee USA network this week, and got more good feedback on how network leaders will use the site. Actually, Neil inspired the new "Q & A" sections at the bottom of each page (including this one) - setting up a space for users to ask questions of each other on various aspects of network building. Granted this is not the best way to have a conversation. But it's what we can do for now. We'll need to capture and format questions and main points as the need arises.

March 15-30 Karen: I began meeting with different network leaders to discuss the organization and presentation of the content. Heather Hamilton (Connect US Fund), Erik Leaver (Foreign Policy in Focus) and David Hoffman (CEE Bankwatch) have all provided some useful tips on what's most useful. Here at Netcentric we lean towards the theory behind networks. We also work on network action plans and campaign strategies, but it's usually tempered with a bit of the 'why'. But in my conversations I learned the wiki needs to have a strong practical edge - way over the theory. People really seem to want tipsheets and tools. So I've reorganized the content to reflect this new focus. Tips for building each feature have moved to the top of each page, while diagnostic advice has been demoted.

March 1-15 Karen: We're moving ahead full steam with adding some basic content around networks, as well as case studies. I found a nice book that's really a good example for what we're trying to do: We are Smarter than Me. The book provides case studies on using 'crowdsourcing' for business tasks ranging from research and development to building a board. What I like about this book is that it focuses exclusively on the case studies. And the entire piece was written collaboratively using a wiki!

February 15-29 Karen: The basic content is evolving, and we're now trying to add lots of examples and case studies. The wiki needs to have a strong interactive and multimedia component. We've found that it's no problem to get people excited about the idea of networks, but what they really need are practical tips and strategies for making network thinking actionable.

February 1-15 Karen: We've started uploading much of the content we've developed through our work with various networks and organizations. We're building the structure around the seven basic components of networks: social ties, common story, vision, shared resources, communications, feedback and leadership. We're building in four kinds of content for each of these basic components: tips for building, tips for evaluating, example stories and definition. These seems to be the most useful breakdown, but we'll see how users respond.

January 2007 Most of this month was spent finalizing the wiki structure and design. We built this wiki using our fab in-house designer Robert and CSS designer Philip. Design was to be simple, but attractive. It's tough to make wiki sites attractive. They rarely seem to 'grab' readers. So we've built in functionality to embed different media - video, photos, etc. Getting that up on the pages is the challenge now. Also seems a bit hard for contributors to do, unless they know wiki markup or check out other pages to see and copy the write language... We've also been further developing our best practices and advice for new networks, and are just about ready to start uploading them to this site.

September-December 2007 Karen: We're excited to to capture some of the strategy we've been developing through our work activists of all sorts on a collaborative resource like this wiki. Over the past year we have worked with the Connect US Fund, Womens Health and Environment Initiative, Greenpeace International and many more organizations and networks. As we're building new approaches to strengthening networks, we're also realizing that this exploration must be collaborative...

Q & A

As with the main site pages, please feel free to ask questions or discuss this page on the 'discussion' tab above. We'll pull main points and tips here.

Theory of Change

It just would not be an official great project without a solid theory of why the work matters. Why are we sure that we need to work on this? Well... Here is our theory of change.

It flows from the idea that most campaigns and issue work will not accomplish the goals and change they seek without a highly functional network of people collaborating. Great change takes people, policy, organizations, business and government people networked together and moving in a similar direction.

If that is the case, lots of people are going to need to stick our heads, hearts and shoulders into the challenge of thinking about the "network side" of the challenge. We are going to need lots of people and we are going to need to communicate our lessons and thinking on a huge scale.

At the heart of the problem, lots of people needed to think it through, share experience and wisdom with others and communicate the findings with large allied audiences that they may not know. We needed a wiki.


Please let us if this holds any insight for you? What is your theory of change? Is it dependent on networks? Where do you turn for network strategy connected to your advocacy vision?