What’s the Point of Network Mapping?

Like – So What?

Network mapping is weird – some people ‘get it’ instantly & quickly become mapping enthusiasts, sensing in it a lever for shifting paradigms. Especially if the map in question is online & interactive.

Other people are more like ‘so what?’ – it’s just a bunch of dots & lines, who cares?

Well here’s the thing –

We need solutions to complex problems.

We want ecological sustainability, ample clean water & healthy food for everyone.
We want justice & thriving not just for a few, but especially for those who have had little of either.
We want education that trusts & honors innate wisdom & healthcare that trusts & honors innate healing.
And we want meaning and connection – not just among people, but among all life forms.

We want a lot – and we should. Because what we want is only that things work as they could if they weren’t all mucked up.

We want all the broken crap to be fixed, yesterday. And we want to be able to move those fixes forward together, collectively, in collaboration, including all the voices.

We get that it depends on us

And we get, at the conceptual level, that we are each unique members of a living human ecosystem, with irreplaceable gifts to offer, and specific needs the universe wants to meet. And we want nothing more than to open the locks and let those gifts flow – in service to a greater (and better) whole.

We want the ecosystem of US to thrive & be resilient, not just eke out a minimal existence.

But in our hearts, and in our collective practice? It’s harder to see. We lose sight of the forest for the trees (or the branches, or roots, or leaves, or blossom petals . . .)

We’re still afraid

The legacy of the separate-self paradigm is still strong and deep in most of us. We give interbeing lip-service, while deep down, we still fear we’re inter-changable cogs in a dead & deadly machine, lacking the resources needed to support the life of our ecosystem, awaiting instructions for how to proceed.

Outside of the constraints & command  performances demanded of us by institutions, we don’t know what it means to be part of something greater. We take our connections to others either too personally or not personally enough. We don’t know how or what it might mean to nurture relationships among ‘others’ or outside of our personal affinities. Beyond the containing rules of institutions we find ourselves stuck in – how do we contribute or receive or intend or initiate together? How do we make sense of the chaos?

It starts in our imaginations

Will Network Mapping solve all that? Of course not. But it certainly can be a stepping stone in the right direction.

Others will share the pragmatic benefits of mapping a network – finding which voices are missing, discovering triangles to close, finding others to help & be helped by, increasing the potential for value to flow more freely. All of which is useful & important. And not terribly meaningful to cogs.

I’d add that I appreciate network mapping as an image of a paradigm I want to move toward. It stimulates my imagination. It’s a picture of the people-ecosystem from above. It gives us clues to that forest-level where we can begin to really sense what’s going on. It’s a representation of where we are now, and a way to envision what we want to become.

A network map makes me think about the people it represents differently than I used to.

The network of relationships, the quality of those connections – when I look at a network map, I want to help feed that, to nourish those bonds. I sense how much they matter to me – even without personal affinity.

And our imaginations evolve with repetition

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. With network mapping, those words might at first seem to be in a foreign language. Meaningless dots & lines on a screen. But with repeated exposure & familiarity, those dots & lines impart a new meaning – one I haven’t seen in anything else.

If you’re among those who ‘get it’, don’t just map – refer to your map often & talk frequently about what it means and why it matters to you – especially with people who don’t get it.

Because in that space between ‘so what?’ and ‘because. . .’ a whole world of possibility can open up. Maybe not the first time, maybe not even the fifth. But eventually, even this cog began to see something new & meaningful & promising in those silly little lines & dots.

Just articulating it out loud helps not only to solidify it in your mind, but to move the vision into reality. So tell me, what is it about network mapping that you find meaningful? What possibility does it make you more inclined to actually work towards?

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Michael Bischoff
7 years ago

I happened to listen to a talk today by Charles Eisenstein about the new (an ancient) mythology of interbeing. I saw many overlaps between his talk and you r post. I love how you work to embody the deeper possibilities underneath network mapping.
When I saw the headline of your post, I thought it might include something like 5 short bullet points about why network mapping matters. If you are ever inspired in that direction, I’d be interested in your version of that too, for use in the more linear, concrete portions of the world.

Mary Roscoe
7 years ago

Christine, you covered many aspects of what I find meaningful. For me, mapping represents what Otto Scharmer describes in Theory U: “… new (leadership) revolves around the boundaries of ecosystems, clusters of organizations that co-evolve in a larger space of collective value creation … in ecosystems coordination functions through a constellation of diverse players that collectively form a vehicle for seeing current possibilities and sensing emerging opportunities.” Mapping, especially Kumu, brings this picture alive.