At NETSHEILA we are on a constant journey to understand what it is to be connected. As we speak with people in many different professions about social capital and the value of networks, we are gaining insight into the dimensions of the work we do.
We began by being involved ourselves in international change processes and became fascinated with the ability of internationally operating individuals to make change happen on a global scale. Putting the elements of activism and the use of connectivity under the microscope, we learned lessons we can now share with teachers, among others, on how they can use their social capital to be more effective as teachers while decreasing the levels of difficulty in their work.
We are now noticing how this work translates into any community action. It is relevant for doctors who have formed a society to promote specific practices in the health industry. It is valuable for rural town councils who work with stakeholders to improve services to vulnerable citizens. Making great use of the available social capital is transformative. That’s why we say that NETSHEILA is about connecting, creating and transforming.
So what is a community exactly? The Wikipedia description is 1) a usually small, social unit of any size that shares common values. The term can also refer to the national community or international community, and 2) in biology, a community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment.
There are all sorts of change agents operating at the level of community. There are specialists, for example, in community capacity building. Community capacity building means the activities, resources and support that strengthen the skills and abilities of people and community groups to take effective action and leading roles in the development of their communities. This is very relevant to the work of NETSHEILA, with our interest in finding and utilizing the social capital of stakeholders in any enterprise and creating new ways of working to benefit from this resource. As management consultants we steer groups through strategic processes at the heart of which is the effective contribution of the individual.
Community capacity building vs community development
Community capacity building is not the same as community development, for which S. Skinner in ‘Building Community Strengths’ (1997) provides the popular definition: “Development work that strengthens the ability of community organizations and groups to build their structures, systems, people and skills so that they are better able to define and achieve their objectives and engage in consultation and planning, manage community projects and take part in partnerships and community enterprises. It includes aspects of training, organizational and personal development and resource building, organized and planned in a self-conscious manner, reflecting the principles of equality and empowerment.”
More than one
What the specific focus of NETSHEILA contributes to all these important fields of work is the notion that who we are as individuals is the sum of all our connections with our people. When an employer employs an individual he or she, in most cases in most companies, is not very aware that this person gives the organization access to a large array of connections and resources. Sadly, most organizations do not even use the capacity of people to connect with each other within an organization to strengthen the capacity of the organization itself.
That can be transformed.