Who’s in Your Network?

Before we get to this week’s blog post please take a moment to fill out this three question survey on reading, books, and writing. Heidi, of the Fakequity Team, would appreciate your thoughts and she is offering prizes! If you’re in Seattle you can probably convince her to take you out for a bowl of pho or a taco as a prize, tell her she’ll grow her personal network (the topic of this week’s blog post).

Two GoFundMe Campaigns
social-network-links.jpgAs an avid procrastinator I often wander over to Facebook to read what is happening in my online network. Over the past few years I’ve noticed crowd sourcing for donations and support has become more commonplace and an easy way for people to ask and receive support from each other. A few weeks ago I saw a GoFundMe campaign in a group page. Sharon (not her real name) had a piece of business equipment stolen. The theft crippled her business and she didn’t have extra funds for a replacement. She humbly and reluctantly posted the online campaign page. Sharon is well-networked in her neighborhood, likeable, and her family while not rich is stable and comfortable. Within a few days she had made significant progress towards the campaign’s financial goal.

A few days later I saw a contrasting online campaign on a Facebook neighborhood page, Carla (fake name), is homeless and is asking for support to pay off outstanding fines in order to get a license so she could also get to work. She’s had less success in raising the funds needed even though her total is less than what has been raised by the other campaign. Some in the neighborhood supported her campaign, but there wasn’t as much community bonds or support on her posts.

Having watched both of these GoFundMe campaigns I was struck by the difference in how they were received and how people reacted to them. Sharon’s campaign was welcomed by her online social network, friends stepped in and made personal donations and left notes of encouragement. I’m assuming they wanted to help someone they know and like. We are inclined to support people who we perceive are like us and we can see ourselves creating a relationship with. Sharon is easy to like online and probably in person. Carla who equally needs support doesn’t have the same network of support even though she worked just as hard to retire her debt so she can also move ahead in life.

Network Equity or Fakequity
At a favorite program officer’s goodbye party another colleague mentioned she recently had an appointment with her financial advisor. Her financial advisor asked her if her charitable giving aligned with her values, her answer was “no, they don’t,” which prompted her to think about where she wanted her financial donations to go to. Having worked in nonprofits long enough I’ve learned a few fundraising lessons:

1.       We give because we’re asked by someone.
2.       We give to people, not organizations and to a lesser extent causes.
3.       We give to people we know.

If we believe giving is personal and we give to who we know and have relationships with than it also means wealth and charity stay within circles and networks. This also means the rich benefit themselves and communities of color which have historically overall had less wealth are at a disadvantaged. To get to equitable results we need to widen and deepen networks so we can gain and give more support to each other. When funding and support is concentrated it reinforces power and social dynamics that allow institutional and other forms of racism to continue. We need to slow down and ask ourselves are we sharing and opening our networks to understand diversity and to challenge the stories we tell ourselves about other networks and communities.

Our social and professional networks are essential a bunch of people whom we feel some affinity to or tolerate for a reason (such as an annoying co-worker, a funder we’ve inherited, a cousin-in-law, etc.). I like ninety-eight percent of the people in my network and am thankful they are in my network. But this also means if I don’t include anyone in my network who makes me uncomfortable or makes me question my thoughts, habits, or humanness I’m probably just hanging out with people like me. I really shouldn’t be hanging out exclusively with people just like me all the time, while I appreciate having a personal fan club, I also need to break out and understand the world more. As an introvert I find this notion incredibly taxing, but I know in the long run it is for the better. The more we all work to understand each other the more we can support each other and the more we share of ourselves and our many forms of wealth.

Three starter questions for examining your social and professional networks:
1.       Think about who is in your top ten people you like and describe or list how you know them. Did you grow up together or grow up in the same place? Did you go to school/college together? Did you work together at some point? If the answer is yes, they are probably similar to you in thinking and attitudes.

2.       Who gets your work time? Is it people you like and fine easy to work with? How many new meetings or new people do you seek out to meet?

3.       Who do you sit with at meetings people you know or do you try to sit next to someone new?

Posted by Erin Okuno