Clarify Purpose and Principles

A purpose is not an objective, it’s not a mission statement—a purpose is an unambiguous expression of that which people jointly wish to become. And a principle is not a platitude—it is a fundamental belief about how you intend to conduct yourself in pursuit of that purpose. . . .
To the degree that you hold purpose and principles in common, you can dispense with command and control


The first step when cultivating an impact network is clarifying if and why it should exist. Sometimes the need will be quite obvious, particularly for those who have been working in their field for years. Other times it may call for some investigation. In either case, it takes a special person or group of people to recognize the potential for a network and to invest the time and resources to help it form. We call these individuals network catalysts. Catalysts are the visionaries who precipitate the launch of a new network.

Catalyzing a New Network

Catalysts take many forms. In the case of the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network, described in chapter 1, the initial catalyst was an executive director of California’s oldest land trust, Reed Holderman of the Sempervirens Fund. Through his years of work in the field, Holderman recognized the need for greater collaboration among regional organizations on land management and stewardship activities. As a final act before retiring from his position, he brought together an initial group of leaders to explore how their organizations could work together more effectively across the region. Holderman also raised enough seed funding to help get the network started.

The Initiative for Multipurpose Prevention Technologies (IMPT), also described in chapter 1, was first catalyzed by Bethany Young Holt, a nonprofit leader inspired by the need to connect the fragmented MPT field. Holt organized a meeting of stakeholders working on HIV prevention, STI prevention, and contraceptive development, and then used the resources of her organization, CAMI Health, to help them share information and coordinate actions with one another.

For the Food Lab at Google, described in chapter 2, the primary catalyst was Michiel Bakker, someone new to the organization who saw the opportunity to engage actors from within and beyond Google to address complex food system issues. In another example, described in chapter 9, Steve Pantilat, director of the Palliative Care Program at UCSF Health, catalyzed the Coordination of Care Network to connect twelve sites and ten health disciplines to provide more comprehensive and coordinated palliative care to people with serious illness across the health system.

Foundations are also sometimes in a good position to help spark a new network. For instance, the Garfield Foundation catalyzed the RE-AMP Network when they convened a group of funders and advocates to take a systemic approach to addressing climate issues in the Midwest. Similarly, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation catalyzed Sterling Network NYC to support leaders from the public, private, and social sectors to work together to increase economic mobility across the city’s five boroughs.

Almost anyone can be a catalyst—as long as they embrace a network mindset. Walking the talk of the network mindset means sharing leadership rather than seeking to control the effort, showing humility, and demonstrating a genuine commitment to the purpose of the network. This last point is particularly important. If catalysts are not sufficiently trusted and committed to the cause, participants will question whether they are “organizing for impact or for ego,” according to Nick Martlew of Crisis Action, a catalyst and coordinator for organizations working together to protect civilians from armed conflict.1 The clearest way for catalysts to earn the trust of participants is to keep the purpose at the center of their focus, rather than their own self-interest. Trusted catalysts are thoughtful and of high integrity—people who consistently share power, defer credit, and lift others up.

Exploring the Potential for a Network

If it appears that greater levels of connectivity are needed between individuals and organizations to make progress on a complex issue, you can advance through the following steps to catalyze a new impact network:

1. Make Sense of the System, and Build on What Already Exists

Start by doing your homework to understand what’s really going on. This means having conversations with lots of different people who are engaged in the issue. Where is there common ground? Where is there disagreement? Is there a shared purpose that can bring people together? Do the people doing the work see the need or opportunity for greater connectivity and collaboration? Examine the work through an equity lens. Why is the system the way it is? Who has power, and who doesn’t? What needs to be centered in this work? Which people and perspectives are historically or currently underrepresented or marginalized?

Before doing anything to start a new network, look to support and build on the work already underway. Rather than creating something new and duplicative, follow the leadership of potential participants. Networks can be harmful when they are forced from the top down with no recognition of existing initiatives and when they fail to include the people on the ground doing the work.

2. Organize an Exploratory Gathering

If there is a clear need for increased connection, coordination, and collaboration, and there is not already a viable effort underway that you can partner with, the next step is to invite people from across the system to explore the potential of an impact network. The Stewardship Network (not to be confused with the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network), a movement network that helps catalyze other stewardship-focused networks in communities around the United States, organizes one-day “exploring possibilities workshops” to determine if there’s a need and desire for a new network. Though it is sometimes appropriate to organize such a gathering by invitation, it can also be quite powerful at this stage to put out an open invitation to anyone who is interested. “Making space at the table is so much a part of what we do,” says Lisa Brush, founder of The Stewardship Network. “Over time a main group of people keep showing up, and the group starts to coalesce.”2

At that exploratory gathering, discuss the following questions:3

Why should we start this network?

Why should we not start this network?

What are the possible issues we would work on?

Who else should be at the table?

Then, toward the end of the gathering, ask:

Should we proceed?

If so, to what degree are you interested in participating? (See chapter 10 for four levels of engagement that people can choose from.)

If there doesn’t seem to be much energy or interest, creating an impact network probably isn’t the right approach at this time. Still, even in the absence of an organized impact network, you can continue doing whatever you can to foster connection across the system. You can introduce people who are working on similar issues or create new communication channels where people can share information. Strengthening the underlying network of connections that exists within any human system is almost always a worthy exercise. In many cases, it is wise to start by strengthening connections informally, and gauging people’s interest to engage further, before spending additional resources to build a formal network.

3. Form a Design Team

There is real power associated with the catalyst’s position, and that power needs to be explicitly acknowledged at the outset. This is not a role to be taken lightly. In particular, this power shows up through the initial articulation of the network’s purpose and in how people are invited to participate. One of the best ways to make the process of cultivating a new network more equitable is to share this power with others by forming a diverse design team.

Design team members steward the development of a network in service of its purpose and of those who will come to participate in the future. They consist of representatives from different parts of the system who work to collectively clarify why a network is needed and who needs to be involved. This small, thoughtful group should be able to represent multiple viewpoints and speak from a range of perspectives.

The first mandate for the design team is to take what they heard from the exploratory meeting and refine it into a cohesive narrative for the fledgling network. In the process, they can clarify a draft purpose. Though a network’s purpose—its reason for being—can evolve over time, getting people to come together in the first place usually requires an initial high-level statement of the challenge or opportunity they are being invited to address. The design team will also consider what type of network is needed and how network participation might be bounded.

Most important, they will answer questions that are necessary to organize an initial convening: Who needs to be involved? How will we invite people to join? Where will the convening be held? What topics might we need to address at the convening? And who will design and facilitate the convening? They may also consider how the network might proceed after the convening, including how the network might be structured, what communication systems it could use, how it might be resourced, who might provide ongoing coordination, and so on.

Like the purpose, each of these preliminary considerations will be refined when participants are brought together, but it’s helpful to have draft proposals ready that the network can respond to, rather than asking a nascent network to develop them from scratch. When the design team has done the thinking necessary to give the network a strong foundation for its launch, it is time to organize an initial convening.

4. Organize an Initial Convening, and Begin Cycling through the Five Cs

The last step, in partnership with the design team, is to organize one or more convenings and invite people to begin cycling through the Five Cs. While many networks will start with a single convening to gauge interest, it can be prudent to schedule a set of convenings from the outset in anticipation of busy calendars.

At these initial convenings, the catalyst might provide facilitation, or they might find someone else to fill this critical role. Regardless, the initial objectives are always the same: bring people together so that the whole system becomes more connected; look for common ground and identify the places where people can work together—even if they disagree on some issues; take time to develop relationships of trust; and find ways to share information and resources to support each other’s work.

In the early days, “start small and let it grow,” encourages Jane Wei-Skillern. “Share resources, share infrastructure costs, and engage in small collaborations where people see the benefit. Networks should be making everyone’s work and lives easier. If they’re not serving that purpose, they should not exist.”4 We have advised many ambitious network leaders to start by cultivating a strong learning network before jumping straight to action. It’s far better to have a vibrant learning network than a middling action network, and learning networks can always evolve into action networks later. Over time, people may discover opportunities to collaborate—to do more together than is possible alone—at which point, catalysts can help create new structures and dedicate additional resources to support that shared work.

As the network develops, catalysts might stay involved to continue to help lead the network, or they may become a participant like everyone else. In either case, the catalyst role is fulfilled once the network has been brought together and has enough leadership, resources, and clarity of direction to continue evolving into the future.

Finding Common Purpose

The network’s purpose—why it exists—is what inspires people to show up. The purpose should be ambitious enough to inspire, clear enough to identify who to convene, and specific enough to focus the energy of the participants. The best purposes galvanize connection, learning, and action. People are far more likely to reach out and engage with one another when they share a compelling vision to which they feel they can make a meaningful contribution.

Without a common purpose to rally around, people will tend to connect with those who seem most similar to them. This is the network phenomenon known as homophily, the principle behind the adage, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Homophily is “the conscious or unconscious tendency to associate with people who resemble us (the word literally means ‘love of being alike’),” write Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler in Connected.5

Yet there is so much more that connects us beneath the surface, beyond what we can immediately perceive. By clarifying shared purpose, we explore the deeper commonalities that can bind us together. In the process, something in us shifts, and we begin to see ourselves as part of a larger “we.” As referenced earlier in chapter 2, we evolve from an egocentric focus to an ecosystem consciousness. We relate to each other not just as individuals but also as part of a community.6

Network purposes are usually focused on a combination of an issue, geography, and/or population. For example, the purpose of Sterling Network NYC is to “advance economic mobility across the five boroughs” of New York City.7 100Kin10’s purpose is to “prepare and support 100,000 excellent STEM teachers in America’s classrooms.”8 The purpose of the Justice in Motion Defender Network is to “protect migrant rights by ensuring justice across borders.”9

A network’s purpose can be well defined or kept broad. Both approaches can be valid. The more tightly focused a purpose is, the easier it is to identify and recruit the people necessary to address it. On the other hand, broader purposes can help encourage the participation of a more diverse set of actors and provide them with greater flexibility to define what the network will ultimately focus on.

The objective of clarifying a common purpose is not to force agreement but to legitimize difference, and through that exploration of divergent perspectives to discover the places where values converge. When people recognize the nature of their interconnected aspirations, their perceived differences shift from barriers to gifts. “Because we know in essence that we want the same things, our differences cease to be obstacles,” writes Peggy Holman in Engaging Emergence. “They become creative pathways to unexpected innovations that contain what is vital to each of us and all of us.”10

In our polarized world, it is easy to forget that there’s actually much common ground we share. We want safety for ourselves and our families. We want to be free of suffering and worry. We want clean air and fresh water. And we want to feel love and a sense of connection with others. Though we may have different ideas on how to get there, if we dig deep enough, we can find the shared whys that unite us and create a foundation upon which we can connect, learn, and work together to achieve those ends.

Integrating Multiple Levels of Purpose

As people come to networks of their own accord, it’s important to recognize that they are motivated by multiple, overlapping purposes:

Personal purpose: The internal drivers for why people do what they do

Professional purpose: Professional or organizational motivations for joining the network

Collective purpose: The shared purpose that binds the network together

Altruistic interests alone are unlikely to sustain someone’s engagement in the network. In order to be fully committed and participate in a meaningful way, their individual or professional purposes must be served as well. This is reflective of the dynamic tension of self-interest and shared interest. In the process of clarifying a network’s purpose, look for the intersection of individual passions, professional motivations, and collective aspirations.

Sharing personal motivations also helps to humanize participants when they are used to seeing each other in a purely professional context. One particular exercise we use to accomplish this is called Purpose Stands. In this exercise, each participant delivers a one-minute timed speech that answers a central question: Why do I do what I do? This question reveals a person’s mission in the world, which may or may not align with the responsibilities of their day job. These one-minute speeches don’t focus on the practical what but on the personal why that defines one’s work. The full instructions for leading Image Purpose Stands can be found online in the Converge Network Toolkit (visit to access this and other tools referenced in the pages ahead).

Shifting Focus from Problems to Possibilities

Exploring shared purpose is more about exploring shared possibilities than it is about defining shared problems. Instead of giving a network something to work on, give it something to work toward.11

People often approach social issues with two main questions, notes Holman: “What’s the problem?” and “How do we fix it?” These questions are backward looking, focused on restoring the system to an ideal or imagined past state. On the other hand, when guiding questions are future oriented, as in “What’s possible?” and “How do we create it?” people are mobilized to focus on more transformational change.12 Focusing on problems is limiting; focusing on possibilities is liberating.

Consider the work of Smile Spokane, an action network consisting of more than a dozen organizations and supported by Arcora Foundation, which is working to improve oral health in Spokane County, Washington. If participants in the network focused on “the problem,” they would surely recognize that six in ten third graders in Spokane County have experienced tooth decay. Research shows that poor oral health has other significant ramifications that extend well beyond the mouth—for example, children with poor oral health are nearly three times more likely to miss school and four times more likely to earn lower grades.13

A focus on the problem might therefore articulate the network’s purpose as “reducing tooth decay in all Spokane County residents.” As a result, this might have led the network to focus primarily on a strategy of increasing school tooth sealant programs—a worthy pursuit given its effectiveness in reducing tooth decay. Yet, presenting problems are usually just the most visible symptoms of a broken system. More than likely there are deeper root causes, including underlying systemic inequities, that are keeping things the way they are. Focusing on the problem might have caused the network to miss higher- leverage opportunities to create impact.

Instead, Smile Spokane articulated its aspiration for the future: “To create a healthier Spokane by improving oral health for all.”14 With this future-oriented purpose, the network identified strategies to affect underlying issues, including increasing access to oral health care among vulnerable populations, integrating oral health care into primary care, and providing care navigators to link oral health care with other services related to behavioral health and substance use disorder. Each of these strategies aimed at creating a new system of care in order to consistently produce better outcomes for residents over the long term.

Of course, taking a forward-looking approach does not mean abandoning present-day issues. It only means that those pressing issues can be seen in the larger context of the future you want to create. Even as it advances longer-term changes, Smile Spokane is working to expand the school sealant programs so badly needed in the short term. Before the network launched, there was only one school-based sealant program in the city, serving only a small fraction of the population. Today, because of partnerships cultivated through the network, sealant programs are in place in nearly 100 percent of schools with a majority of low-income students.15

Envisioning the Future

Envisioning what you want to bring into reality is about dreaming, sharing aloud what you hope to see (through dialogue, art, and other means), and co-creating an image of the future. Envisioning the future together inspires energy and creativity to help a network clarify its purpose.

Resonance Network provides an example of how to use a compelling vision to bring people together and chart a course for the work ahead. Emerging from Move to End Violence, a ten-year program of the NoVo Foundation, Resonance Network has evolved to include a growing constellation of people committed to building a world without violence.

In the initial stages of the network’s development, leaders recognized the need to have a clear picture of the world that they wanted to create. “An entirely new way of being is required to live in and into these times,” they wrote. “The art of creating new solutions and possibility begins with knowing how it is we want to live.”16

At an early convening to clarify the network’s purpose, thirty leaders gathered in Boston for three days in a room filled with artwork, flip charts, and sticky notes. Throughout their time together, they explored a profound question, offered by political strategist and Zen priest Norma Wong: “In a world rooted in interdependence, belonging, and living in harmony with other people and the planet, what is your vision for this world we want in one hundred years?” To explore the question from multiple perspectives, they also asked follow-up questions, such as “How do we get our food?” “What’s our relationship with water?” “How do kids learn?” “How do we keep people safe?” “How are children born?” and “How do people die?”

Participants began to sense into the future they hoped to see. They started ideating, drawing on flip charts, building off one another’s visions, and accentuating common threads. Facilitators then asked the group, “OK, if that’s what you see in one hundred years, where do we have to be in fifty years to make that hundred-year vision happen?” After more time for ideation, participants were asked to consider a shortened time horizon: “For that fifty-year vision to happen, where do we have to be in twenty-five years?”

With each step, participants were challenged to bring their vision closer and closer to the present day, identifying potential strategies that could be transformational over the long term. Working backward in time, people were asked, “Where do we have to be in two years?” and finally, “Where do we have to be, right now?”

“At first, people felt overwhelmed with how bold the vision was and how audacious it was that we were putting that vision on paper,” reflects Alexis Flanagan, co-director of the network. “Then people got energized. They saw what we needed to do right now in order to start to make all this happen.”17 At the end, participants stood back and looked at the work they had done. The network’s reason for being became clear: to transform the roots of violence by building a world grounded in deep relationships, vibrant community, and connection to our planet.

Crafting a Collective Purpose

The formation of the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network provides an example of how a group of diverse stakeholders can define a collective purpose. When over a dozen organizations originally came together to figure out how they could work together more effectively, there were significant questions about why the network was being created. People had concerns about hidden agendas, no single issue was of interest to everyone, and the attending organizations had very different short-term priorities.

Before members could agree on their collective purpose, they first needed to clarify what was meant by “stewardship.” Defining key terms is a common early task for a new network—only by agreeing on what stewardship meant could participants begin to make it actionable.

They also needed to develop a shared understanding of the system: the historical and present-day factors influencing stewardship in the region. They completed a historical analysis, examined external trends and forces through scenario planning, and identified hopes and concerns.

Through many rich discussions, participants began to find common ground. Most people agreed that effective stewardship required a multifaceted, mosaic approach. They recognized threats from development and climate change. And nearly every person agreed that strengthened connections and collaborative relationships would benefit their work and the region. While there were plenty of disagreements of how to most effectively steward the land, there was also plenty of agreement about why effective stewardship was important.

Eventually, participants were ready to craft and refine their collective purpose. As the facilitators, we asked them to articulate the purpose of the network from their perspective by completing the phrase “How do we . . . ” We then took what they shared and offered an initial version of a purpose for them to refine. We find that it is easier for large groups to improve upon a draft statement than it is for them to build one from scratch.

Participants debated the draft in small groups and offered suggestions for improvement. Rather than holding a group wordsmithing exercise, which is rarely a good use of time, a team of volunteers agreed to take the network’s feedback and refine the statement during a break. Later in the day, the team shared their proposed purpose: “To cultivate a resilient, vibrant region where human and natural systems thrive for generations to come.” Using the consent-based decision-making process outlined in chapter 10, all participants agreed to formally adopt the sentence as the network’s purpose with the understanding that the network could revisit it at any time in the future if necessary. Over the course of the next six months, this purpose evolved into a more complete network charter, containing principles, participation agreements, and high-level priorities, which was ratified by the network’s twenty-one members at their third convening (network charters are explained in more detail later in this chapter).18

Defining Shared Principles

Whereas values are fundamental beliefs about what a network holds as important, principles are corresponding guidelines to inform decisions and actions. Principles operationalize values. Therefore, principles are the ultimate articulation of what the network stands for and how it will show up in the world. When created collectively, they provide a powerful touchstone that enables participants to hold themselves and each other accountable for walking their talk in how they work together to advance the network’s purpose. Having clear principles means that “as conditions change, there is a common understanding of what matters, a way to return to shared practice and behavior,” writes adrienne maree brown, author of Emergent Strategy.19

When I worked with colleagues and partners to help launch the LISTEN network (which stands for Leaders in Science and Technology Engagement Networks), we spent much of the first year engaging with representatives from dozens of different networks, national organizations, and scientific societies to define a purpose and a set of principles that would reflect their shared aspirations for the future. The purpose, “To nurture relationships among all people and science,” has given the network a compelling focus to orient around, and its principles have been critical in guiding conversations and actions. For example, one of the network’s five principles states participants’ mutual commitment to “honor communities’ priorities.”20 As you might imagine, this is a big shift for a field whose priorities have historically been determined by major institutions. LISTEN’s purpose and principles are captured in its network charter, a formal but not legally binding document that is agreed upon by each participant.

According to Erica Kimmerling, the network’s sole coordinator, having clear principles captured in a charter gave her “permission to push the edge and hold the network accountable to the things it agreed were important.” When the murder of George Floyd sparked a national conversation on anti-Black racism, Kimmerling referenced back to the charter and their acknowledgment “that unless we explicitly name and challenge systemic structures of exclusion . . . our work will reinforce them.” In this context, she was able to convene the network to discuss issues of systemic racism in science engagement. Because the network had already done the hard work of defining its principles, Kimmerling could raise up an area where additional work needed to be done.21

Many approaches may be used to clarify and build agreement around a network’s principles. For an existing network, the following approach works well.22 First, share and listen deeply to stories of “a time you saw or experienced our network operating at its best.” Then enter into a dialogue to identify themes that bubbled up from the stories, and see if you can name a handful of values and associated principles. Perhaps learning stood out as a shared value. You would then ask, “Where did you hear practices and behaviors associated with learning?” Responses may include, for example, “listening to understand many points of view, being willing to experiment, or adapting quickly when conditions changed.” Through this process, you can tease out the network’s principles based on participants’ lived experiences. A modified process can be used if the network is just forming, reframing the story-sharing prompt to elicit “a time you experienced or saw a collaborative effort that worked very well.”

Capturing Agreements in a Charter

Charters serve as the culmination of a network’s initial exploration into why it exists and how it will work together. They can be helpful in establishing the basis upon which a network will evolve. Charters also provide an orienting device that members can reference when considering possible paths forward, when onboarding new members into the network, and when introducing the network to new audiences.

Of course, words on a page are not nearly as important as the conversations that led to the charter. Still, witnessing participants’ commitments with one another is usually an exciting and inspiring moment. And perhaps even more significant, making public commitments, whether by signing a charter or through some other practice, goes a long way toward holding people accountable.23

As networks are constantly changing and evolving, any charter should be viewed as a living document, detailed enough to capture the network’s initial agreements and guide its present direction, but also flexible enough to adapt with the network as it evolves. Just as the network’s purpose should be revisited from time to time, so too should the charter.

Charters typically include context for why the network was formed, the network’s purpose and principles, and a high-level summary of who is involved. Charters may also include the network’s priorities or focus areas. Additional operating agreements can be captured in a corresponding document, including governance and decision-making processes, operational structure, and participation agreements (see chapter 10 for more information on establishing participation agreements). Visit the Converge Network Toolkit to access a Image Network Charter Template containing section headings, sample content, and prompts for developing a charter.

Evolving Purpose and Principles

Purpose and principles often evolve over time as people share why they have joined, what they care about, and what they hope will happen. Clarifying purpose and principles is an active, iterative process. As with an orchestra collectively tuning its instruments before each performance, it’s good practice to revisit purpose and principles every so often to ensure that they still resonate. When the RE-AMP Network did so years after its launch, significant revisions resulted.

The RE-AMP Network started in 2004 when the Garfield Foundation convened a group of advocates and funders to advance clean energy initiatives in the Midwest. After analyses were conducted to identify potential areas for action, it became clear that even if they made tremendous progress on advancing clean energy in the region, the results would come nowhere close to what was necessary to fundamentally shift the system. Consequently, they expanded their focus to reduce greenhouse gas pollutants in multiple ways, including advancing clean energy and energy efficiency, shutting down coal plants, and capping carbon.

Early on, RE-AMP was extremely successful, passing energy-efficiency policies in multiple states and preventing the buildout of coal plants that had previously been seen as inevitable. These successes led to the rapid growth of the network. But in years five through seven, between 2008 and 2010, the effort hit a roadblock. The Great Recession devastated local economies, a new wave of politicians in the region stalled the network’s policy work, and eventually some of RE-AMP’s biggest funders decided to end their support. “At this time the network started to wonder, ‘What’s next?’” recalls Ruth Rominger, director of the collaborative networks program at the Garfield Foundation. “So, it was a logical moment to revisit the original analysis and purpose of RE-AMP.”24

The period of growth had attracted new people who saw the value in the way RE-AMP worked. These members steadfastly maintained that climate change could not be addressed without tackling the racist, colonialist, and capitalist structures that allowed pollution to flourish. They also made clear that further progress would not be possible without challenging paradigms about who has power to make decisions. This group gradually grew and steadily gained influence.

Over time, the network’s membership and leadership evolved. The new leadership eventually recognized a need to refresh the network’s systemic analysis and, this time, to recognize that climate change is at its core a symptom of social and political problems, rather than primarily a technical problem.

This recognition led to a convening that the organizers called “the equitable deep decarbonization summit.” This summit brought together seemingly the most diverse group that RE-AMP had ever had, and “it fundamentally changed some people’s awareness of what the network was all about,” reflects Jessica Conrad, who formerly served on the network’s staff.25

At the summit, activists explored how a commitment to center the needs of the most impacted communities could transform how the network understood its work. “It was a great moment of humility, which is so important in systems change work,” says Gail Francis, the network’s strategic director. “Many people realized just how much they had to learn.”26 Following these discussions, the network began developing a set of principles to provide benchmarks for what equitable decarbonization looks like in practice and to establish the intention that an analysis of equitable decarbonization would be incorporated into each action advanced by the network.27

“As we were tearing stuff off the wall and closing up the summit, I remember saying to my colleagues, ‘RE-AMP is never going back to how it was,’” says Francis. “It was a watershed moment that challenged a lot of our default ways of thinking about how we address the climate crisis.” Within a year, the network had formally revised its purpose to “equitably eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in the Midwest by 2050.”

These conversations would not have been possible without the right people in the room. It was only by including a more diverse group of advocates that RE-AMP could evolve in a way that would most benefit the whole system. It was also only by convening together, with thoughtful design and skilled facilitation, that the network could have the conversations it needed to have as a full group. Networks are nothing without the right people, and convenings are the moments that create collective transformation.

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