The Power of Networks
As part of the EQUALS Global partnerships webinar series, Uplifting Women by MGA, member of EQUALS Leadership Coalition co-chaired by UN Women and Ernst & Young, hosted The Power of Networks. Bringing together diverse perspectives and experiences, the webinar welcomed four top speakers, opening up amazing, enriching discussions! Honoured to have had the opportunity to facilitate this space, full of brilliance and valuable insights! We expand these learnings to this community in how we can develop relationships that build trust, starting from a place of curiosity and genuine interest, connecting from our humanity to learning how we can co-create collaborations with communities that we impact. Let´s dive in!
Our first speaker, Maria Harismendy, describes herself as a Facilitator, Intrapreneur and Systems Hacker. She focuses on accompanying social entrepreneurs and innovators to catalyze change in order to achieve the 2030 SDGs with a global perspective. She started the discussion with the concept of Ecosystem Mapping – describing it as a tool to strengthen the system and involves creating a map of interconnections between people, organizations, ideas and other factors that impact the problem. It a relational approach to the system that can help understand the interactions between different issues and sectors to find new opportunities for action and impact She mentioned that to address an issue, it’s necessary to consider the larger system effects that create and reinforce a problem and how this system is based on relationships and interactions. Maria presented how an ecosystem map is fundamentally made up of nodes (organizations, individuals, resources) and relationships that link them together in different ways. She presented her own ecosystem map legend and invited us to think about the relations that I own, relations that I would like to generate, organizations I have a link with, organizations I would have a link with. How do I tap the possibilities to open those doors?
Maria suggested these steps to creating an ecosystem map:
1. Define your primary purpose
2. Identify key stakeholders
3. Map relationships and interactions
4. Analyze and interpret
5. Iterate as many times as needed.
We are used to making lists when thinking of potential contacts, people or organizations we want to relate with; this approach made us see it differently, taking us through making connections in a systems map and the power behind it.
We went on to learning how we build connect and build high-performing relationships. Kimberly Sauceda, CPCC, PCC has over twenty years in marketing leadership at Fortune 500 companies, like Apple and Logitech and is the CEO of her company, O2U. She supports organizations and leaders to move from Overwhelm to Unstoppable and shared insights from her book Meet on the Bridge. Though the book focuses on how managers and employers can come together and build relationships at work, it applies to any kind of relationship. She spoke to the notion that both people need to build the bridge. She asked us how we were thinking about building our networks?
Focusing on three aspects of the first part of building the bridge, which Kimberly Sauceda lists as essential are: trust, respect and connection.
She made us think about building a connection not a transaction. Furthermore, she mentioned that one of the biggest challenges is she sees people thinking about what they need instead of offering first. She invites us to offer first and offer continually and offer it from a place that is authentic. Kimberly sometimes sees leaders who she describes as very ´checklisti´, meaning they approach their team member with no true interest in their personal circumstances but rather want to come across as caring but quicky move on to the tasks at hand. Again, think about your connecting style. What is that thing you are leading that is more from the heart, she asked.
Our next speaker Sharon Halpert (MIM) shared her personal learnings in building networks in her career, the mistakes she has made, new ideas for how we could curate our network so that we could be a more powerful version of us, in whatever industry we are currently in or dream of being in. Sharon has worked in the construction industry for over 20 years, in which she uses many of the skills she learned teaching. She shared a specific example of how working on a 9.6-billion-dollar project and being one of the dozen people on the project because of her specialized niche, she was later able to tap in to the power of support from that network she had built. From her presentation, we delved into finding new ways to connect - to seek first to understand, ask questions, ask more questions, find common ground, to think about if we like or dislike the same things. She invited us to see the positive and the possible. Sharon spoke about curating your collection, connecting to your connections, remembering what they need/like, have this help you find a reason to reach out by asking them, asking others, searching online, listening to a podcast they have spoken for. Help by not just asking but offer as well. Think about all the ways you can support one another.
Sharon leaves us with this – there a million ways we can connect before we ever really connected! Once we are connected, how do we have the ability to catalyze collaborations?
Gaby Arenas de Meneses, Founder of the TAAP Foundation, an organization created to promote peaceful coexistence and sustainable development in communities that have impacted more than 4.5 million people in 14 countries, shared their experience. The first step to catalyze collaborations is to invite collaborators to be human and leave their companies and titles behind, she says. For example, you are not the director of ´X company´, you are ´Gaby´. When collaborating with the community, it’s important that external stakeholders become partners, not bring in solutions but work to develop solutions together with the community.
From the TAAP Foundation, they bring together people that have never before worked together. Training for the communities includes all artists, trainers, and communities sitting together as equals, are co-responsible.
Gaby shares they always think of the stakeholders that should be there, and the stakeholders/allies that don’t need to be there but could bring energy to the collaboration. When collaborating they do not have any strategic planning. Why? Most organizations are focused on the planning, operations plan, project plans, and activities, she says. Collaborations require emergence and if you have everything planned, emergence will not happen. Every time you leave space for emergence, people bring something new.
A special thank you to each of the speakers that with their unique voices, willingness to share their experiences, inspired us with ways to expand our networks!
And as our very own Michelle Settecase, Ernst & Young Co-Chair of our Leadership Coalition at EQUALS Global Partnership put it, always think about who I can introduce them to in my network?
Pay it forward We can integrate these learnings as they make sense to our every day. From how we can start mapping stakeholders, organizations, people that we know, how we can connect, how we can approach them from a genuine place of curiosity and support and start building those relationships that lead to building our networks and collaborations around the world and get to uplift everyone all-around.
- Maria Gabriela Arguello, Founder Uplifting Women by MGA