Networking that Sticks

A large saguaro cactus stands in the desertIf you’ve ever brushed up against a prickly pear or Saguaro cactus, it is very hard to get those cactus stickers out. And that was the point of the two-day VisionServe Alliance conference: Develop networks that stick – so you can make change that has a positive and lasting impact.

The annual CEO Summit of VisionServe Alliance was held in Tucson, AZ. Some 60 of us from around the country gathered at the Tanque Verde Ranch, nestled in the Sonoran Desert, to share ideas and challenges and to engage in networking that sticks.

Successful networking begins with a shift in mindset. Nonprofits too often address issues and planning from a scarcity mindset, where the thinking is: “There are never enough resources.”   We do better by adopting an abundance mindset, where we think: “There are enough resources.” Going into a discussion with other organizations thinking abundance creates a more open approach.

Keynote speaker Jane Wei-Skillern is a researcher and professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Through her research projects with Guide Dogs for the Blind, UK and Habitat for Humanity Egypt, she identified four principles for effective networking:

  1. Set at the center of your work the mission instead of organizational gains.
  2. Build partnerships based on trust not control.
  3. Promote others rather than yourself (your organization)
  4. Build the constellation that will enable achievement of the shared vision versus trying to be a star.

Society for the Blind, together with five other agencies in California, is engaging in this type of networking. Together we are addressing the growing number of people seeking our services, sharing ideas for innovative ways to secure more funding and creating employment opportunities for people with vision loss.Sonoran Desert landscape

The desert landscape can look quite barren. But upon closer examination, it is rich in resources and beauty. The nonprofit landscape can look pretty dry at times too. But with the right mindset, we can find partners in the community and together make a lasting impact for the good of the people we serve.