The New Volunteerism Project
Ivan Henry Scheier
Co-MiniMax I: The Bridge Between Groups as described in Chapter 7
From The Bridge:
The original MiniMax (previous section) was designed for individuals as participants. For groups, programs, or organizations as participants, a Co -MiniMax process was developed as a variation of the original methods. Both methods are equally applicable for any composition of the participating groups: unpaid, paid or bartering; voluntary or outside-pressured, etc.
The earliest version of Co-MiniMax is reproduced below as Chapter 7, pages 36-39 of "The Bridge: A Guide for Networkers" with co-author Susan Dryovage, published in 1981 by Yellowfire Press, Boulder, Colo., now out of print. This version, pretty well crystallized by 1981, followed closely, the format of the original MiniMax in translating from individuals to groups participants.
Designated Co-MiniMax I, it was never widely used. The reason for this are suggested at the end of this section in the full clarity of hindsight. Co-MiniMax II, very recently developed is then proposed as an improvement more likely to be used in the real world.
Networking among groups, agencies, or other organizations is directly parallel to networking among individuals. It is also as important for quality of life. The names may be different for example, "collaboration" instead of networking but the justifications are similar: the need to get the most out of existing resources in our era of relative scarcity, and the desire to cooperate rather than compete or duplicate.
This guidebook emphasizes networking among individuals because just about everybody can benefit from it, and most of us could use some skill building in the area. For this reason, and because of our natural inclinations, our methods were developed primarily with individuals in mind, still extensions to organizational networking are possible. Thus, for virtually every element in networking as an individual there is a "translation" for an organization. Organizations certainly have needs. Organizations also have something like "glad-gives" though they might better be called "willing-shareable resources." Agencies as well as individuals may have surplus services or things that they are willing to trade. Matches between resources and needs can occur between organizations as well as between individuals and agencies will be represented by individuals at the point of contact.
With this as background, here are a few suggestions for transposing from individual to organizational networking.
A. Select Organization to Be Included in the Network Effort.
This parallels forming the circle of common concern for individuals, with one likely exception: effective networking can handle relatively fewer organizations than individuals. Eight to ten organizations to begin a bridge has been suggested as a rough rule of thumb.
Otherwise, Connie Hyatts work gives us some excellent guidelines. See her "Worksheet for Collective Action" on the next page. ((((Connie Hyatt, CAVS, Supervisor of Volunteer Services, State of Oregon, Dept of Human Resources))))
Worksheet # 9
Your Agencys/Organizations Functions: _____________________________________
What other Agencies/Organization probably serve your clientele or could serve them?
Given the Agencies and Organization on your list, what are some unmet needs of your clientele? Or your Agency/Organization?
Who else might share these needs? Who else might be able to help meet these needs?
What can your Agency/Organization do to meet the common needs?
What unites all of you? (mutual strengths)
Plan your first attempt to set up a network.
A danger here: some significant organizations (including those that need to network most) may decline to participate. This can leave huge holes in shareable resources and information and a feeling of incompleteness at the exchange table. We say keep right on doing the best you can and leave the door open.
But maybe not wide open. Possibly some attention should be given to selection of organizations for "balance of power." One major attempt to network volunteer organizations differing widely in size of budget and staff left the impression that some of the stronger organizations felt taken advantage of by the "demands" of the weaker ones-- "What right have they," etc.--while some weaker organizations found the stronger somewhat status quo oriented and arrogant. Again, we suggest that whenever possible, you select participating organizations which are at least approximately equivalent in strength and power as organizations.
B. Select People to Represent Each Participating Organization
Now that we have the right organizations in the circle of concern, we need to take care that the right people represent these organizations. The right representatives will have the maximum of experience, decision- making authority, and trust in relation to their organization, and if possible, some credibility and expertise in negotiation (don't send your turf ogre). The above should be explained clearly to every participating organization. The organization which still persists in sending "just anybody" is legitimately suspect of not being serious about the collaborative process. Perhaps that organization should be told so, candidly.
C. Meeting #1: Networking as Individuals
Presumably, organizational representatives are adequately oriented to the overall purpose of the networking effort; it is assumed this happens at meeting #1 and/or before then.
Otherwise, meeting #1 is a learning-and-doing session on networking as individuals (Chapter 6). Any weight of responsibility to represent an organization is deliberately avoided. Instead, the people who will later represent their agency or organization are instructed to speak only for themselves, and to network on that part of their lives which has little or nothing to do with their organization.
The intent is for the organizational representatives to 1) learn networking techniques and, 2) have a positive, pleasant team-building experience in so doing. Try to generate a positive ambience for each representative and between them. Generally, it is important to accentuate the positive and the win-win at the beginning of the collaborative process, and as much as possible throughout it. This is by contrast with what so often happens when organizations meet. They:
put problems on the table,
put more problems on the table,
and finally are surprised when the table collapses.
With organizational as much as individual networking, lead from your strengths, what our organization is willing or even glad to share.
D. Interlude #1, Back at the Organization.
Organizational representatives go home to their agency/organization: 1) to share network processes there with a select group of decision-makers and constituents. This may be a somewhat abbreviated version of meeting #1 in' step C, and 2) to discuss, dialogue, decide as authorized for the representative:
a) resources-the organization is willing to share, the analogue of individual glad gives, better togethers, trade-ups, etc. (We don't suggest such terms be used back at your organization; only that the concepts behind the terms be explained to encourage creative thinking about shareable resources.
b) services, materials, facilities, and the organization needs. Some organizations may be reluctant to voice their needs (acknowledgement of weakness before competitors? funding sources?). Other organizations seem to want to talk about nothing else. Try for network processes which naturally get everybody into both giving and receiving (see Chapter Four).
Unless the organization is "represented" by an absolute despot, there will be no substantial extemporizing. To deal with this, there should be:
a) a fairly large number of authorized gives and needs for each representative, say ten or more of each, and
b) where possible an authorized range of discretion built into offers and needs, e.g., for offers, not just that we're willing to share our meeting room but when and under what range of conditions.
E. Meeting #2, Provisional Resource-Need Matches Between Organizations.
At this second meeting organizational representatives try to match shareable organizational resources and needs between their organization and others using all authorized negotiating latitude. The process parallels that for individual networking except that you may find things going more slowly and solemnly, the organizational representatives feeling the weight of responsibility to speak accurately for their organizations. On the other hand, some people feel easier about offering organizational resources than they would personal ones. Thus, it's probably less of a personal sacrifice for a person to commit bookkeeping services on behalf of (someone else in) their organization, than to commit personally to provide that service.
There may have to be quite strict give-get "balancing" rules, and rather precise guards against exploitation of one organization by another. A variation of the one-up rule in the trade-up process could be helpful: no one can get more than one or two gives ahead of gets, or vice versa. Also helpful is the group's general awareness and discussion of the potential problem, and their specific unwillingness to keep on sharing resources with an organization which is all take, take, take. Then, to the extent organizations observe the rule of offering only resources they are genuinely willing to share at little or no sacrifice, it is hard for them to be exploited when these resources are taken.
From meeting #2 it is essential that all representatives have clear, complete, and agreed-upon "maps" and verbal records of matches made.
F. Interlude #2: Re-Authorization Back at the Organization.
As with individual networkers, there will rarely be perfect matches "made in heaven" between shareable resources and organizational needs. But a representatives adjustments in resources or needs made to facilitate provisional matches, have to be okayed by the organization before becoming final.
G. Making It Final
This re-authorization might be handled "on-the-spot," possibly by phoning back to the organization. More likely, organizational representatives will take a description of Meeting #2's provisional matches back to their organizations for official re-authorization and return to certify the approved pattern with others in Meeting #3. The final stages of networking may also have to deal with the thorny problems ensuing when the re-authorization does not occur for parts of the total network pattern.
For larger organizations, anyhow, the whole process may consume enormous quantities of time, as ponderous decision-making channels are called upon and bureaucratic red tape grudgingly unwinds. Meanwhile, other groups may be forced to adjust to the glacial pace of the slowest.
But with patience, it will happen, and for that occasion you might consider a celebration something between a treaty signing and a party.
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