Developing impact networks to enable collaboration in a complex world

Creating Change in a Complex World’ Documentary (2022). Credit: Converge & Hive Studios

Converge cultivates impact networks and supports network leaders. It is a network of strategists, designers, storytellers, and systems thinkers. Small Foundation has partnered with Converge since 2018 to develop our own impact network practice and Converge has provided learning and coaching support to our network partners.

Driving impact

Our partnership led to the creation of Converge’s Network Leadership Series (NLS), nurturing network leadership and peer learning across Small Foundation’s impact network partners and connections working in sub-Saharan Africa initially, and which has now developed into a regular, global offering from Converge.

In tandem with this training, Small Foundation engaged Converge for one-to-one support with our impact network partners, including coaching, training, and support with recruitment. The NLS and engagement with Small Foundation impact network partners in turn hatched an African Network of Network Coordinators, a learning and coordination network.

A major field-building initiative of the partnership was the development of our network evaluation toolkit which has been utilised and shared by the wider impact network community as well as our own impact network partners.

Small Foundation has also amplified Converge’s thought leadership in the impact network space, supporting the launch of Converge co-founder David Ehrlichman’s Impact Networks book, and production of the ground-breaking documentary Impact Networks: Creating Change in a Complex World.

‘Developing network connections through the Network Leadership Series’

When the global pandemic thwarted a planned in-person training in Nairobi for network leaders in 2020, which would be the first of its kind, Converge pivoted to a virtual co-learning series. While the move to online was one many made during this time, this was a breakaway from one of Converge’s core tenets: that in-person convenings were essential.

While in-person meetings are king for connection, the online version proved highly successful. The first series garnered strong reflections from participants on the experience and value of the content, while virtual sessions proved to be a sustainable financial approach.

The NLS began as a closed pilot, with a series of sessions on different topics related to impact network coordination such as convening, weaving, and impact measurement. Following the success and feedback of two full trainings, Converge launched their publicly offered NLS formally in 2022. Converge has since received invitations to deliver private NLS cohorts for STEM educators and a global impact investment network.

The NLS has now been joined by two shorter network learning opportunities created by Converge: Intro to Impact Networks and Network Essentials.

“It was a jam packed 3 hours full of information and food-for-thought. Can’t wait for the continuation of this series on network evaluation!”
— Patricia Munro,  Network Evaluation for Network Coordinators June 2022

Converge’s aim is that one day impact networks will be broadly recognised as the optimal approach to navigate complexity, and network coordination will be viewed as a critical capability. To achieve this vision it continues to develop an ecosystem of partnerships.

What we’ve learned

Converge has been a thought leader for Small Foundation on how to facilitate collaboration and engage with complex issues. Through our engagement with Converge, we have learned how to support impact networks and weave network mindsets into our everyday work. We have become champions of the impact network approach, and would encourage others to learn more about it.

We are always seeking to learn more, and are currently engaged in understanding how best to apply a network approach to challenges such as where networks are spread over wide geographic areas or where solutions are well outside the influence of the members.

Spotlighting change

Working with Small Foundation, Converge has built a wide range of meaningful connections with other network practitioners, field builders, consultants and other collaborations that feed into learnings that are advancing the impact network approach in sub-Saharan Africa.

Converge believes that to address the needs of a world that continues to change at a rapid pace, collaboration and effective ways of working are critical. Its approach to network theory and practice is focused on bridging across silos, sectors, geographies and communities. Converge continues to draw on its experience as network strategists and the experience of the networks and practitioners it works with, bridging learnings to set out roadmaps for effective collaboration.