Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Networking Recipe - Strategies for Networking and Building Community

    In my last post I discussed how networking is a means to building community for your family.  I introduced a "recipe" to help guide you in your networking efforts and felt it was important to dive a little deeper here and provide you with some specific strategies and examples.

1) Develop a networking mindset

Embrace individual differences as an opportunity to grow and learn.  We know our own situations and children the best, but exposure to new things and different ways (within reason) helps accelerate growth.

Think about how you feel when you have been truly helpful to someone.  Feels good, right?  By connecting with others we learn about their strengths, their needs and where we can be of service.

Now trade places in that scenario.  Networking is also about letting people who want to be helpful know how they can be helpful.  Remind yourself that networking is a two way street. It is energizing to give and receive support in ways that are meaningful to both parties. 

2) Finding common ground to get the ball rolling

I am reminded of the importance of networking and building community as I recently spent a long weekend living in a beach house with three other homeschooling families.  We found each other through our own individual networking efforts.  Our shared values in home-based education initially brought us together, yet when you take a closer look at our four families, we couldn’t be more different.  Our differences allow us to learn from each other and our shared experiences that weekend solidified our bond. Networking and building community is not only about finding commonalities, but also creating shared experiences and respecting, learning from, and leveraging unique individual differences, styles, and preferences.  We learn and grow together as we benefit from each other’s experiences and point of views. 

Sharing experiences builds community (our beach house getaway)

3) Contributing to your network

Just like any other relationship, there is a give and take involved with your network.  Ensure you are an engaged member of the community by sharing ideas, information, and resources.  Be proactive in helping others.  It's easiest to do this in ways that are authentic and energizing to you.  You have unique strengths and interests that others will appreciate learning from or leveraging so they can focus on their own strengths and interests.

Some ways I like to help my homeschool community is by scheduling field trips, and creating and organizing various interest-led clubs.  For example, I have formed clubs for hiking, chess, philosophy, entrepreneurship, and art.  I can’t tell you how many times parents have told me “I never knew this [insert resource/activity]existed, thank you so much for inviting us!”  It brings me joy to share these experiences with other families and to provide opportunities to our local homeschool community.  And because organizing outings and activities energizes me, it doesn't feel much like work.  This is my contribution to a great community that also provides me with resources and opportunities that I otherwise would not know about or have as much energy in creating on my own.

4) Leveraging your network 

There are so many ways to benefit from your network:  Have a group of like-minded people that you feel you can trust.  Socialize to give yourself and your children new experiences and exposure to different points of view. Be open to learning from the diverse experiences held by those in your community.  Gain information and ideas by asking for advice.   Expand your toolkit by trying other's techniques.  

When we came home from our trip to the beach house, I noticed how much my children grew just by being around a diverse group of people, their vocabulary increased and interests in other areas emerged.

Have you tried one of these techniques and would like to share?  Do you have any different strategies that work well for you? 

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