Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Networking Strategy for Social Entrepreneurs

I was at Minority Development Workshop where Donna Nelson presented the results of her report "A National Analysis of Diversity in Science and Engineering Faculties at Research Universities". The data (US) is pretty grim: “Progress for female and minority faculty at research universities, produced from past attempted solutions combined, has been too slow. If significant progress is to be made within the next couple of decades, new and totally different approaches to solving problems facing women and minority faculty will be needed.” The report made a huge impact on me. Being a corporate type I always thought universities were more hospitable to qualified women (after all, in 1975 I knew a university professor who wore saris to work and one who took her baby to office). The report also finds that many qualified faculty women opt to drop out or settle for a lower position (very few deans for instance). After a while it is "just too much of an uphill grind", "not worth it" etc. I see this with social entrepreneurs too - it results from having inadequate informal support infrastructure. Support can come from Networking- There are two networking strategies :
1- "Blending In" is being like the majority; socializing in their playgrounds - it gives you access to influential colleagues, you understand the rules of the game - it often feels like hard work.
2-"Sticking Together" - stay close to family, race, community; gives you stress relief, builds social support and strengthens you- it can be a time sink
The key to successful networking is to explicitly adopt both strategies, to be aware of their powers and pitfalls and employ as needed in your situation. As I listened to Donna's talk I realised that in my corporate life - I followed the "blending in" strategy (no community) and now in my university life I follow the "sticking together" strategy (community of social entrepreneurs). I can see how I could have done better with a more explicit understanding of this system - I have always hated networking (time sink, too much work, no fun etc.) and now I understand why.
How do you network ?


Elizabeth Grace Saunders said...

I think it's valuable to do both... I've found that having a few close friends that I share entrepreneurial ideas with really gives me the support and ideas to keep moving forward with my businesses.

Then I select a few key organizations that connect me to a wider breadth of people in my community, industry, and interest groups.

Neerja Raman said...

well said!

Neerja Raman said...
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