Whether it’s outreach to Chinese studying abroad or equipping a new generation of Chinese Christians to serve cross-culturally, some tasks are simply too big for any one organization, no matter how well-run or well-resourced they may be. These efforts require a network of likeminded groups, all working from their respective strengths in pursuit of a common goal. Here Kärin Butler Primuth, CEO of visionSynergy, discusses the characteristics of high-impact networks.
1. Why, and when, are networks needed?
Networks are needed when organizations go after a God-sized goal that is larger than any one of them, but which aligns with the purpose of each one. It’s the purpose that keeps them moving in the same direction, working together toward that shared goal. What’s especially important is that the purpose is clear and compelling. It must be clear so each agency or person knows what they can contribute and potentially gain by participating. It must be compelling so people are motivated to invest their limited time and will keep investing in the face of challenges or limited progress.
2. Who makes the network happen?
Networks are all about the people in them. Ideally these should be the ones who are the most influential, most interested, and most involved in whatever sphere the network is working. But they know they cannot do it by themselves. The network provides a place to share information and explore potential collaboration. It facilitates their secure communication. The way people work together is vital to the success of any network.
To achieve this requires leaders who are competent, called, and committed to the shared goals, able to cross theological divides, and build consensus among people who may be very different. The qualities desired in network leadership are not the same as organizational leadership. Network leaders appreciate and creatively build on the gifts and vision of others rather than trying to control the process. They focus on what unites, rather than what divides, and work to build a culture of trust where all voices are heard and valued.
3. How do you get from vision to reality in a network?
The process transforms vision into action, generating activity by setting clear, limited goals that are achievable. It develops structures for planning and decision making, providing clear opportunities for involvement. It takes time to evaluate what’s happening and, finally, to celebrate progress. Each of these steps is necessary for the development of a healthy and effective network which, when empowered by God’s Spirit, can achieve far more than any individual or organization can accomplish on their own.
To learn more about effective networks, visit visionSynergy.
Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of China Ministries International, and from 1985 to... View Full Bio