Network Weaving at GEO

Tactical Philanthropy is currently covering the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference with the help of a blog team. This is a guest post by Stephanie McAuliffe of the David & Lucile Packard Foundation.

By Stephanie McAuliffe

image I am anticipating the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference through a network lens. At the Packard Foundation we have spent the last year or so thinking hard about how to best support growth in the effectiveness of the “large N” networks we fund in our various program areas. The conference gives me a chance to indulge in my obsession about networks, spending a little more time thinking about small "n” networks.

A consultant engaged in the review of one of our programs said her firm would be tapping into her network and their networks and their networks to get to the complexity of the system the program is working to change and to push the frame out more broadly. From her I got the idea of approaching the GEO conference by “wandering in with a world view and discovering it is incomplete or unhelpful”.

Another influence to my approach at the conference is the explicit experimentation with network weaving that June Holley (and network) did at the NTEN conference in Atlanta last week.

At GEO I get a chance to practice network weaving because GEO set up a formal Ambassador program. They connected me with two colleagues who have never been to a GEO conference. June Holley defines network weavers as “someone who is aware of the networks around them and explicitly works to make them healthier (more inclusive, bridging divides). Network Weavers do this by connecting people strategically where there’s potential for mutual benefit, helping people identify their passions, and serving as a catalyst for self-organizing groups”. My goal is to live up this for the two newcomers. I understand that at SOCAP they call it “vibe maintenance”.

Networks have been around forever but one thing that has changed is the acceleration of networks with social media. So far some of the moments I have noticed are.

  • Anticipation building with #2010GEO comments on twitter (and those friendly “see you there”? emails)
  • Connection on with the two newcomers so we could see each others’ photos to increase the likelihood of success for the “meet you at the door of the plenary lunch” strategy.
  • June and colleagues learning in public which sparks my thinking at their Crowdcrafting Google Doc.

If you are curious about Network Effectiveness and will be at #2010GEO be sure to come to session C6, I get to do an open space table. Otherwise check out

How do you network at conferences? Does social media help? Are you a weaver or ever been helped by one?.

Editor’s Note: You can follow Stephanie on Twitter at @StephanieMcA


  1. Stephanie, I’m thrilled to learn we share a fascination with networks 🙂 People can learn more about the work June Holley has been doing to draw attention to this praxis at You’ll see a link there to some work ( a bunch of us have been doing to articulate the skills and practice surrounding network weaving at events (including the just-concluded Nonprofit Technology Conference, and the upcoming Wisdom 2.0 Summit). In true “fractal fashion,” network weaving is something that can infuse our own personal practice, our organization’s strategic focus, or the work of an entire sector.

    SoCap’s “vibe maintenance” is another wonderful metaphor. Jean Russell’s doing some great work in that direction, drawing attention to characteristics which promote and define a strong, positive vibe or network environment. The metaphor she uses is “thrivable.” Check out for an e-book recently published on the topic. It’s a rich resource for understanding the characteristics that lend themselves to strengthening networks of all kinds.

  2. Thanks for sending us to What is the Wisdom 2.0 conference? It’s so great that even though I won’t be attending another conference this year the increasingly trasparent ways of working mean that I’ll be able to follow it on twitter, see slides on slideshare etc.

  3. The first annual Wisdom 2.0 Conference ( is taking place at the end of April in Silicon Valley. Two days of sessions plus a third “unconference” day. From their website:

    “The Wisdom 2.0 conference is a one-of-a-kind event that brings together people from a variety of disciplines, including technology leaders, Zen teachers, neuroscientists, and academics to explore how we can live with deeper meaning and wisdom in our technology-rich age. The great challenge of our age is not only to live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world. The conference was developed to explore this and related issues. If you are interested in the potential of technology, and wish to use it wisely, you may enjoy the the Wisdom 2.0 conference.”

    Go directly to for a line-up of sessions.

    I do hope that with the amount of tweeting and other info-sharing that people will feel they’re able to experience the conference from a distance. We’ll be tracking plans, activities, lessons learned etc. at that Google doc Stephanie linked to,

    Many times, networking is an unavoidable “emergent” side effect of creating conditions that encourage it. I’m thinking as I type this that a post-Wisdom 2.0 informal gathering for everyone who couldn’t attend, but who are in the area and would enjoy meeting up, would be a good idea. Will keep this forum posted as that comes together.

    In the meantime, Stephanie, great to know you’ll be at #2010GEO. Catch this post from The Extraordinaries’ Ben Rigby for “conferences and their hashtags” lessons learned at the just-wrapped NTEN’s annual conference:

  4. Jeff Jackson says:

    Thanks for the comments Stephanie and Christine. As I’ve mentioned in another blog post comment, your posts help me feel connected to the conference at a distance (you don’t even want to know where I’m sitting right now). I look forward to reading more about conference sessions from others as well. Good luck with your session this afternoon Stephanie. Very warm regards. Jeff