Monday, February 04, 2008

Noodling about networks

What do politics, the Super Bowl, and philanthropy have to do with each other? Besides the fact that they are all on my mind, that is.

They may have nothing else in common so I'll stick with why all of them are on my mind. One word. Networks.

I'll get the easy one out of the way - networks and the Super Bowl. I come from a long line of NY Giants fans. For as long as I can remember, people I care about deeply have cared deeply about the Giants. I cared about the Super Bowl mostly because the networks of people who matter most to me root loud and long for, and have suffered long and hard because of, the Giants.

Second, networks and politics. Tomorrow is Super Tuesday. Today the New York Times ran a story about family strife caused by "strange political bedfellows." The Kennedy family has returned to our collective consciousness because its many members are split between the two leading Democrats (and one Republican - Shwarzenegger/McCain). After a year of primary campaigning lots of well-educated, committed Americans are finding themselves making decisions about who to vote for based on endorsements. Who vouches for whom? Who is connected to whom? In other words, networks.

Finally, philanthropy. There is lots of talk about networks in philanthropy. I've been doing some research about networks for a couple of years now - some of it for clients, some of it to inform my thinking about innovation and change, and some of it to make sense of things I don't understand. We've been working with experts in network theory and network analysis (some of whom may show up in this space soon as guest columnists), bringing them in to client projects, reading the research and the journalism. I used to write about associations in philanthropy. Now I write about networks. Are they different? How? Does it matter? Why?

I'm noodling - lots of questions, not so many answers. Except, of course, about the Giants. And, maybe by end of day tomorrow, about American politics. But I'll be thinking about philanthropy and networks for some time.

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