Editor’s note: This post originally appeared here, on the blog of researcher Beth Kanter. The authors are part of the team that runs The Encore Fellowships Network. The network helps highly experienced workers from the public sector transition to nonprofit work.

By Leslye Louie and Lyle Hurst

Having benefited from the generous advice and expertise of many others, we’re honored to share our experience from The Encore Fellowships Network as the “Action” case study in the Winter 2013 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

The bottom line is that the reasons we selected a network scaling model — fast growth, high program quality, with minimal investment requirements — have all been validated for us. We are now passionate advocates of this approach to spreading social innovation, and firmly believe that collaborative networks hold exceptional promise for breakthrough results even as the management practices and policies are being invented and refined as we write this!

When we selected a network scaling model almost three years ago, our first steps were guided by the wisdom of a few extremely valuable experts in the field. We have benefited from broader learning and sharing networks, and wanted to acknowledge some of our favorite sources of wisdom here:

– Our first inspiration for the model actually came from another Stanford Social Innovation Review article: “The Networked Nonprofit,” by Jane Wei-Skillern and Sonia Marciano.

– We took Beth Kanter’s advice and defined specific ladders of engagement for each of our target stakeholder groups (fellows, host organizations and sponsors). We have refined these over time and added clear value propositions for each, and they continue to guide our program design and network development today. Today we continue to reinforce the importance of these practices.

– Our blueprint for the network was based on the Net Gains Handbook, by Peter Plastrik and Madeleine Taylor. This very thoughtful and detailed framework contains a wealth of practical advice for people who are creating networks for social change.

– We joined learning communities led by Stephanie McAuliffe and Kathy Reich of The Packard Foundation, and we met fellow networked nonprofit pioneers at the “Networking Conference” put on by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, which has been a good source of knowledge and contacts.The Stanford Social Innovation Review case study describes in some detail the history of The Encore Fellowships Network, but due to space restrictions, the editors were not able to include the important contributions of so many of the pioneering co-creators in our network.

We wanted to highlight just a few of our Community of Practice leaders and their instrumental roles:

– Two program and network champions: Nancy Peterson and Janet Luce originated the Encore Fellows™ program model with Encore.org (formerly Civic Ventures). Luce later transplanted and adapted the model as she moved to a new organization, Aspiranet, and continues to be a leader in our San Francisco Bay Area Collaborative to share assets. Peterson has gone on to pioneer other networks to promote the broader encore movement.

– A network within a network: Paul Speer and Rona Pryor of Social Venture Partners proactively worked with us to identify and define practices and policies which would comingle within that organization’s own national network.

– Pushing the envelope: Nora Hannah and Linda Mason of Experience Matters blazed with outstanding communications and creativity, driving us to keep up with their growth trajectory.

– Adventurous spirit: All the program directors have shown an incredible willingness to take risks on new ideas, compromise and contribute time and energy to the collective good.

Lastly, our parent organization, Encore.org demonstrated their faith in innovation and belief in encore talent over the past three years and is doubling down with another network strategy to help further the encore movement. More to come!

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