NETWORK POWER! Fundamentals of Grassroots Network Weaving for the Children & Nature Movement

About the Author

Two passions fuel Avery’s work – connecting people with nature and organizing. Her work has taken her into boardrooms, city council and law enforcement offices, juvenile justice programs, neighborhood meetings, classrooms, and living rooms where she has witnessed the power people have to inspire each other and take action when they explore ways to integrate the natural world into their programs and lives. Avery is a C&NN Senior Associate and member of the Grassroots Leadership Team.

When Mary Roscoe, coordinator of the Bay Area Children in Nature Collaborative (CINC), hit the send button to forward the article Leadership & Networks: New Ways of Developing Leadership in a Highly Connected World, little did she know what she was setting in motion. This article describes beautifully the work many of us are doing in our own communities to connect children and nature. It highlights examples of how network strategies are increasing the impact of social change work and provides a rich resource of language that can help us as we reach out to new partners and funders.

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When people with different talents, knowledge, and interests connect with one another in a trusting environment, they create conditions that are conducive to creativity and innovation. Coordinating and aligning efforts across sectors, silos, and geography can produce changes in policy and practice that accelerate reaching a tipping point.”  ~Leadership Learning Community

The enthusiastic responses from grassroots leaders, locally, nationally and internationally, who wanted to know more inspired Mary Roscoe, Carolyn Verheyen, Principal, MIG Inc. and me to team up to launch Network Weaving in the Bay Area and introduce Network Weaving to grassroots leaders in the US and Canada.

“A network approach brings system change by improving the quantity and quality of relationships, mobilizing more leadership, providing a framework for effective intentional networks, and generating more actions that lead to breakthroughs.” — June Holley, Network Weaver Handbook

Local action was ignited in the San Francisco area when CINC partner MIG, Inc. in Berkeley, California, co-hosted June Holley, founder of Network Weavers and co-author of the article Leadership & Networks to share her wisdom with the Bay Area CINC regional leadership team. The response to June’s presentation was overwhelmingly positive and the CINC is now in the process of mapping the regional network. The maps are creating more visibility – showing the connections and patterns of relationships, potential collaborations, strengths and areas of growth. The maps also provide more possibilities to partnering organizations and leaders in the form of connections, resources and innovative ideas.

International exploration emerged out of a roundtable in September and webcast in October 2013 that laid the groundwork for a Community of Practice (CoP). Twenty-five Grassroots Leaders from the United States and Canada have come together to explore the network weaving approach as a tool to develop local network leadership. The CoP provides a place for leaders to learn more, share stories and co-think how Network Weaving can help to mobilize more people locally. 

“My aha moment was that network weaving is not another item on my to do list but rather a powerful capacity building tool — enabling me to have a greater impact with far less effort by working within my network to create new connections and opportunities and action.” — Amy Pertschuk, Director Network Communications, Children & Nature Network

What is Network Weaving?

“Network weaving is the art of making connections among people in a group in order to strengthen existing ties, bring new people into the fold and bridge divides.” — Catalyzing Networks for Social Change, Monitor Institute

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The idea behind network weaving is that complex issues require a new kind of leadership: one that is more aware of networks and works to make others more aware as well. Network Weaving is a Leadership strategy to solve complex problems because it helps change hearts and minds, catalyze community engagement, stimulate creativity and innovation, and foster greater equity.

Many of us have found Network Weaving to be a shift in perspective from looking through an organizational lens to viewing our communities through a network lens. Organizations are useful when we know how to solve a problem.  Networks are needed when we are addressing a complex problem that we don’t know how to solve.

When looking through a Leadership Network Lens, everyone is a potential leader and innovation and experimentation are key to success.  Network weavers intentionally introduce and link people together to strengthen their bonds and build bridges among groups that are not already connected. These connections also help people self-organize and experiment around common interests, forming many collaborative projects and initiatives.

“Connecting people to people (especially those who are not currently at the table) is almost a prerequisite to connecting people to nature and infusing fresh energy and creativity into the movement.” — Emilian Greczi, Chicago Wilderness

Implementing a network approach accelerates a shift in how we relate to each other – from pressures for conformity to a deep appreciation of our differences and the ability to use those differences for breakthroughs; from hierarchy to peers working together to co-create a world that works for all.

“Improved connectivity is created through an iterative process of knowing the network and knitting the network.”  — June Holley

Networking in a Nutshell

Knowing Your Network

  • Deep Listening – identifying people’s gifts and passions; being
    present to the other person you are wanting to involve is key.
  • Closing Triangles – clustering people by what THEY think will make
    a difference; introducing and creating a connection between two people
    with similar or complimentary interests or needs.
  • Encouraging and Empowering Small Acts  
  • Network Mapping makes visible the social connections of a network showing strengths and challenges, patterns of communication and collaboration, and identifies potential strategies.

Knitting Your Network – Four key roles to nurture

  • Connect – creating quality connections by reaching out to be more inclusive, helping identify resources, and connecting those with common interests.
  • Facilitate – convening, coordinating, and facilitating working groups with a focus.
  • Coordinate – helping people self-organize and initiate action.
  • Support– helping to develop communication systems, provide training and time for reflection for network weavers to learn from each other.

Network Weaving Resources

If you would like to know more about Network Weaving within the movement to connect children and nature, contact Avery Cleary at


1 Comment

  1. Tania Moloney

    Avery, as you know I had the pleasure of lunching with Mary and the lovely Diane Gordon on my recent visit you the US. She was a delight, so generous with her time spent with me and it is obvious why she is such a talented and beautiful network weaver!
    Thank you for introducing me to such a passionate, heart centered and truly amazing lady.


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