We are bamboo
Local communities as organic networks
Erik Jansen, PhD
associate professor Planned Social Change
Research Centre HAN SOCIAAL
[email protected]
Social transformation as collection of network
Network problem =
“a large number of parties is involved, with diversity in values, perspectives and
interests, for which power and responsibilities are fragmented, without a single
actor being able to enforce an all-encompassing solving intervention. In these
problems both the solving strategy and analysis of the problem are contested:
different actors often answer the question ‘what exactly is the problem’,
differently, often contradictorily.”
Van der Steen, Peeters & Van Twist, 2010, p. 3
Tradional organising strategies inadequate for
network problems
Old strategies:
Simplifying the problem
New strategies:
Accept complexity and learn to deal with it
Employ collective intelligence
Rizome as metaphor (Deleuze en Guattari, 1976)
• Horizontally branched root
structure not reducible to a
single branch or surface plant
• Keeps forming new
• Extracting a single plant does
not kill the organism
• No beginning and no ending
• Can at most be controlled,
continues to spread
Instead of viewing the
town district/
neighborhood as
structured organisation
see it as a fine-grained
web of relations
between individuals.
If clusters of individuals
display much mutual
contact, they yield
A different concept of community
• Community is generally regarded (or treated) as referring to groups
• Network theory brings about a definition in terms of bottom-up
Community as GROUP
• Based on common
• Closed concept
• Tends to be static
• Capitalizes on mechanisms
of exclusion vs inclusion
• Entity
Community as CLUSTER
• Based on proximity and
• Open concept
• Evolves dynamically
• Capitalizes on binding
• Organisational pattern
How to govern in a living network?
• Facilitate formation of connections
instead of centralized steering
• Self-determination of individuals:
seek mutual perspective or interests
• Process is essential: trust!
• Local culture and shared values where
ideas flow freely and transparantly…
• …and lead to collective action
 Take care of the soil where roots can grow
What flows through connections?
Pentland (2014): collective intelligence grows by way of
reverberation of ideas in networks
1. Idea flow (directionality): exploration in the
network for new ideas
2. Engagement (binding force): direct, positive
contacts between individual people leads to
cooperative behavior
 (Spread of) learning in networks: social
learning (De Laat, 2014; Engestrøm, 2007)
Towards a learning Civil Society…
Social innovation in neighborhoods and districts:
Professionals and citizens jointly forming the organism of the
living network (Rhizome) …
Organized as emergent (bottom-up) Communities of Practice
(learning networks)…
In which they collaboratively develop critical, reflective practices
and are being addressed in their personal learning capacity …
Based on substantial dialogue (public deliberation)…
Matched with collective action…
Supported by social workers / community developers / social
support teams.
This holds for organisations as well
A living entity  What is the binding force?
Not your position but your contribution is what counts
Everyone has her function within the whole
Knowledge circulation: ideas as “juices of life”
Inniovation and change based on:
1. Expertise
2. Enthousiasm en passion
3. Inspiration
4. Idealism
The practitioner in the bambooforest
New role for practitioners:
1. Reasoning from the common
GOAL of the organisation
2. Be proactive
3. Experiment
4. Be critical
5. Knowledge multiplies if you
share it
Above all: Value others for what they contribute, not for
their position
Middle managers in the bambooforest
Facilitate LEARNING PROCESSES (Stam et al., 2015):
1. Learning from experience
2. Learning from uncertainty
3. Learning bottom-up by explicitizing
4. Learning from tension and conflict
5. Learning by exploring boundaries
6. Learning from dialogue
7. Learning in community
Executives in the bambooforest
New roles for leadership:
1. Cultivate curiosity: create opportunities
to form cross-organisational connections
based on common interests
2. Create space for learning and initiative:
enable the formation and maintenance of
new connections
Above all: Let the forest grow and
cherish collateral benefits!
Take the bambooforest as
your reference and not its
separate plants
Grow by learning
Thank you for your