It was a blue-sky October afternoon in 1995, and Bill – network weaver extraordinaire – was standing on the loading deck of the newly completed Kitchen Incubator where start-up entrepreneurs came to make their specialty food products. Craig, from Frog Ranch Salsa, was loading cases of his award-winning product into his truck and grousing about the high cost of jars.
Right then, another truck pulled up to the dock, and Betty – one of the owners of another salsa producer – hopped out and started unloading cases of empty jars that would be filled later that day. Bill immediately introduced Craig to Betty, encouraging them to compare notes about the quality of tomatoes that season and local bands that were playing in town that weekend.
Network Weavers are continually making connections between people – but they are always connecting strategically. They point out commonalities that create a foundation for mutual benefit. They also help people figure out if they have the kind of personal and emotional connection that will enable them to do things together.
The two were now laughing and joking, so Bill introduced an opportunity. They both used the same jar for their salsa. Couldn’t they order jars together and significantly lower the price? Craig and Betty both thought this idea had some real potential, so Bill helped them figure out how it might work.
Network Weavers help people self-organize. They start with twosies – fairly simple activities that benefit both individuals. They coach rather than run the show. As a result, the two individuals are more thrivable: together they have freed up more money for their businesses and they now have a set of collaboration skills that can be used in many other situations.
The first order worked out without a hitch. The next time Bill saw Betty, he suggested that they might want to include several other businesses who used the same size jars in the next order so they could lower the price even more. Soon the joint orders filled an 18-wheeler and the cost of the jars was one third the cost they had paid when they ordered singly. Now they got it: they could come up with all kinds of ways that they could improve their business and the community, find others to join them and make something happen. In the next few years, the people involved in the jar orders became Network Weavers themselves and, with many others, organized two different festivals, a regional brand, a loan fund, a food policy council, an innovation fund and many more collaborations.
Through modeling and coaching, Network Weaving encourages people to act their way into a new way of being. Network Weaving increases thrivability both for individuals and their communities as people gain the framework, skills and processes they need to co-create wonderful communities.