Guest Speaker 04.10.09

Building Networks: Moving Toward a Sustainable Growth Model: A conversation with Lawrence Community Works

Our first virtual class session features staff from Lawrence Comunity Works exploring the challenge of expanding a network-centric approach without building in too much structure and rigidity.

The session on April 10 will include:

Bill Traynor, Executive Director, Lawrence Community Works
Alma Couverthie, Director - Network Organizing Forum, Lawrence Community Works
Nelson Butten, Director - Collective Action and Mobilization, Lawrence Community Works

Delmy Rosales Reviviendo-- Fellow
Altagracia Portoreal-- Membership Coordinator

Full bios can be viewed here

Background: Lawrence Community Works' Approach
Like many post-industrial cities in America, Lawrence has struggled for some time to re-invent itself for the 21st century. Our view at Lawrence Community Works (LWC) is that our City has two major challenges: One, re-populating the civic landscape with residents who are able to take on leadership roles, work together to solve problems and lead the city into a place in the global economy, and two, finding a way to help its many struggling families to build assets, escape poverty and build the networks of support they need to succeed. Both of these challenges require an investment in Community Building.

Link to Lawrence Community Work's website:

The Leadership Challenge-- Bill Traynor identifies the challenge facing the organization:
Lawrence Community Work's mission is to build a demand environment to change the landscape of educational and economic opportunities for Lawrence families. This mission has led us to a network-centric form for engagement, collective action and an investment strategy that emphasizes development of high-quality programs that respond to articulated mandates from members. This, in order to: a) provide families with high value propositions, b) change the level of expectations/ambitions that people have for the environment, and c) cultivate the leadership and the voices of residents to change the landscape. We now have a robust network-centric environment filled with these rich programs. We have attracted a large constituent base of members who are active in building their family assets, mutual support and collective action. Today, we are almost 5,000 members and a staff of over 40 and a budget of over $2.5 M. Our questions:
  • How do we influence habits, systems and policy and not get mired in the need to expand programs ourselves?
  • How do we continue to expand the network and the network's influence without continuing to grow our staff and/or need to adopt more structure?
  • How can we best perpetuate the LCW “way of doing business” that our network has come to represent without always doing it ourselves?

Format and Preparation for the Virtual Classroom
The session on April 10 will be highly interactive. For the first half hour, LCW staff will brief us about the organization and the leadership challenge they face, and answer questions from the live and virtual participants. For the middle half hour, they will be silent as the rest of us talk about the challenges they have framed, first doing some diagnosis, and then making suggestions and connections to our own work. For the final segment, LCW will re-enter the conversation, first reacting to the diagnosis and suggestions, and then engaging more generally with all of us talking about what we are learning about leadership, partnerships and networks from their case and challenge.

It is important that we all come prepared. Prior to the virtual class session on April 10, 2009 please read this article .
To learn how to connect to this virtual class session click here and see instructions near bottom of the page.

If you missed the live virtual session, a recorded version of the event will be available here.

We welcome your questions, comments, thoughts about Lawrence Community Works before, during, and after the virtual classroom session.
Please click on the discussion tab at the top of this page or click here to participate in a discussion forum about the LCW approach.
What questions do you have about the LCW approach?
How do the LCW approach, and the challenges they raise connect to the work you do?
Do you have ideas or suggestions about how LCW could address some of their questions?
Other thoughts or questions?