The fact that using networks wisely in times of recession is also undeniable.
I was at a conference last week that was really great. A network of 10 professional business-women from 7 countries organized it, in their spare time. Two of them fell in love in the course of the preparations and married a week after the conference. That is how much the organizers loved making the event happened – even though plenty of things went wrong, and plenty of arguments were had.
On Friday, the organizers smiled and beamed all day. 100 women attended the conference, the speakers were great, and in the breaks there were lots of opportunities to network.
Hold it there. Opportunities. Opportunities are created, and opportunities are taken advantage of. The organizers, through the great design and the thoroughly inspiring speakers, created an environment in which the participants could easily connect. Talking was easy. Especially at lunchtime, when the background music was not noticeable – if it was there at all. The final networking event was less well-designed – the music was loud and conversations were yelled. Get three people in a conversation together and you are lucky if you follow it all.
NetSHEila trains companies and organizations in delivering networking events that work on three levels:
- People discover people with access to others that they would love to be in contact with, for personal or professional reasons.
- People enter an inquiry with the others in the room, and find out what matters to them, and what important new knowledge they take away from an event. By interacting in a ‘networking’ environment, people are learning and growing, and discovering a whole community of people who share the same values and are working, in many different ways, for similar goals
- People find potential partners with whom they can develop knowledge that helps create competitive advantage – while being engaged in learning processes that people love to be involved in. NetSHEila encourages people to work in triads, groups of three, to build knowledge. This small unit of three is a support structure and is intimate. Two or three triads together can make amazing progress.
NetSHEila encourages people to enter inquiries with people of all ages. While the Baby Boomers have the wisdom of experience, they have not experienced what it is to be Gen Y today. Or Gen X.
For example, I am passionate about sexual minorities living in freedom and dignity, everywhere in the world. I have been passionate about this for a long time. When my son was born 29 years ago, his mother and I were the only lesbians we knew who had conceived a child they way we did, within our relationship. We knew we had to build community to support our child, and readily responded to requests for interviews on whatever media. We chose a school that promised to provide a great environment for a little boy with two mums. When my son was 12 his mother and I went to court to demand co-parenting rights – something available to unmarried heterosexual couples. We were rejected. My perspective has always been to live our dreams and to support that by fighting for our rights. In 2001 the law changed and lesbian women could adopt their non-biological children. We were part of that change.
Gen Y lesbians are the same age or younger than my son, they were born into the reality of lesbian mums. In a number of European countries marriage equality for same sex couples happened when they were in their teens. So why are Gen Y lesbians setting up equality programs in the business environment? And how does this help businesses thrive? I asked a Gen Y, and her answer was “ We have the right, but we don’t have the comfort”. With 30% of lesbian women still not telling co-workers they have a female partner, something still needs to be changed at work.
The inquiry becomes: how can we create workplaces where lesbian women – and gay men and transgendered and intersex and bisexual people - can bring their whole self to the workplace? Gen Y, Gen X, the Lost Generation and Baby Boomers can all be part of the conversation. This is a knowledge gathering exercise that can begin at a networking event and be followed up by design.
When people are doing the thing they love, great things happen. Businesses that understand how networking works, benefit.
Call NetSHEila and talk about training for your company. +31 20 2600616