Building Bridges

January 8, 2013

We seem to be in a period where there is a lot of talk (and indeed a fair amount of action) around ‘the need for change’ and ‘doing things differently’.  Google the phrase ‘changemakers’ and pages appear.  Some people love the term innovation, others say it is becoming overused and perhaps less relevant.

I am particularly interested in initiatives around changing systems – collaborative efforts to think differently together and then put that thinking into practice – transformative not just incremental change.  What are some of the characteristics of these initiatives?

  1. Broad based:  Although what they are learning may be applied to specific issue areas, the learning is broad, looking for trends that apply across issues and experimenting with processes that can provide insights to many different kinds of efforts.
  2. Cross-sector:  We have become compartmentalized in many ways including by issue areas and technical skills (‘expertise’) and by who we may work for (a business, nonprofit/NGO, government).  To address the challenges we face we need to break out of these silos and pay less attention to labels.
  3. Bridge building or outreach: There appear to be many islands of efforts.  These can be effective within a particularly community, but building bridges will allow information and lessons learned to be more widely shared in order to gain a greater impact.  To change systems and address major challenges we need to consciously plan to connect with other initiatives, and ideally create online, interactive portals that allow information and discussions to be accessed widely, when it is needed.
  4. Multinational: Work with colleagues across the globe to broaden perspectives and approaches.
  5. Listen and follow as well as lead: Recognize that all effective leaders know when to listen, learn and follow, as well as lead, and consciously model this behavior.

Here are some of the initiatives I have been following/been engaged with that are consciously building bridges:

  • Clinton Global Initiative –  Originally started by former U.S. President Bill Clinton as an annual conference of global leaders “to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges” it has since expanded to include many others through additional initiatives such as CGIAsia, CGIAmerica and CGIUniversity.  It provides a good model of being a catalyst for bringing varied perspectives together towards common, tangible goals.
  • SoCap  – SoCap is an annual event series that brings together investors, foundations, institutions, social entrepreneurs and others ‘to build a market at the intersection of money and meaning’.
  • KM4Development – Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev) is a community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches.  What I particularly admire about KM4Development is the open community of discussions, resource wikis and other ways to interact online.
  • Creating the Future –  Creating the Future is exploring the questions of What really creates positive social change? and How can social change efforts infuse those effective frameworks into all their work?
  • Ci2iGlobal –  a relatively new effort I am involved with to explore ways to navigate through global transformation, with a special focus on the movement of knowledge and skills among those who consider themselves ‘changeagents’.

What efforts have you been following/been engaged with?  Where can we build additional bridges?