Dennis Coughlin, Co-Founder & Director, Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open), Interview Transcription 20140918, Cleveland, Ohio
Hello, I’m Dennis Coughlin. I am a Co-Founder and Director of I-Open, also known as the Institute for Open Economic Networks which is located in . I am passionate about how people relate to one another and how do they build community and grow
We’re always asked, “How do you measure how well a community or organization is doing in its work in relationships?
And one of the ways that we do that is through social network mapping where we try to visualize how people are connected with one another in community. We ask people who are the people that they connect with in a number of ways. It’s not just, “Who do I listen to? Who do I think highly of?” It’s more, “Who do I mentor?” and “Who mentors me?” “Who do I work with in all the things I do in community?” With that we ask people, give us a number of names. Five names, three, eight names of people that you work closely with. Nowadays people are connecting with more than just two or three, sometimes it’s up to ten, or even more than that if you work in a big community you will connect with a lot of people.
When we have a gathering of people in a social scene of some sort, the Civic Forum, I will ask people, “Just give me the list of names of the people that you connect with.” The software that we use was developed by Valdis Krebs of Orgnet.com. It will basically visualize all the different connections that we have.
Shown above: I-Open Midtown Brews Civic Forum hosted by Insivia, a Cleveland-Pittsburgh based technology firm. Explore the Midtown Brews Photo Set on Flickr
Shown above: I-Open social network map compiling several generations of community networks as a result of Civic Forums in . Created using Inflow software by Valdis Krebs, Owner, Orgnet.com. Visit the I-Open Social Network Set on Flickr .
When we start with a group of people gathering at a Civic Forum, the people connect with three, five, people who are not even in the room, there is no connection in the room. But as time goes on, after weeks of people working together, there is a certain level of trust built and people start connecting with the people in the room. Also the people in the room will start introducing the people they’ve met in the room to the other people they’re connected to. The network will continue to grow and get more vibrant and with a deeper connectivity that takes place.
My passion is the behaviors that people do with each other. Yes, social network mapping will show a relationship that exists. I’m more concerned with the trust that people build with each other through their behaviors. We always had one simple rule: we behave in ways that build trust and respect. But there’s also the way we behave where there’s an Accountability, there is Collaboration and there is Transparency (A.C.T.). Those three factors are items that we’ve seemed to have lost in community; to some extent there is a lack of trust and it could be fear issues that take place. I’m looking at trying to encourage and grow these behaviors in a community by modeling behaviors and also by creating some accountability by calling people on their bad behavior, if need be. We don’t do it in a way that loses respect on either side. Each one of us needs to ‘save face’ and so you do it in a way that grows people, so that they feel good about themselves and that they are learning. We also need to model this behavior and we need to encourage the modeling by everybody around us.
The social network maps we have done over the years of doing social network maps we’ve been doing for six or seven years at least, actually it’s closer to ten now. The social network maps we did in one community over years, it was probably a six year period where we did maps, we could show the growth over a six year period as to how the network started with just the people in the room and then grew exponentially and then became a very thick network of connectivity. We would encourage people to share the people they connected with, with each other.
-Betsey Merkel, Editor and Publisher
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