NASAA Notes: May 2011


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May 10, 2011

Funders Can Use Networks to Advance Their Mission

Connected Citizens: The Power, Peril and Potential of Networks
, produced by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in partnership with Monitor Institute, investigates how funders can effectively and positively use networks in the 21st century. The Internet has created entirely new methods for people to create networks. A smartly crafted network can have an enormous impact in short amount of time: websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter did not exist a decade ago, but today are used by hundreds of millions of people around the world to make connections and share information.

The researchers first examined successful networks created by for-profits, nonprofits and government agencies. After looking at more than 70 network experiments both in the United States and abroad, they found five practices that created successful networks:

  • listening to and consulting the crowds
  • designing for serendipity
  • bridging differences
  • catalyzing mutual support
  • providing handrails for collective action

The white paper offers many examples of how these ideas have been effectively put into practice. Perhaps the most important underlying issue of these practices is establishing trust between the users and the caretakers of the network. People will not use a network in which their input is censored or ignored, or if they feel their interactions are being pressed in a certain direction. Included at the end of the paper is a Tips and Tools section with questions to ask and pitfalls to avoid when considering investing in a network-centric project.

State arts agencies and other funders are uniquely positioned to cultivate networks. Because they have access to stakeholders in the arts in all areas of their state, state arts agencies can use their central position to encourage productive connections across the arts, government and business. Their leadership and resources can accelerate and direct these networks to create healthy arts communities in their state. The paper, as well as a recorded webinar, can be found on the Knight Foundation’s website.

Henry Clapp, Research Associate

In this Issue

State to State

Legislative Update

Executive Director's Column

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