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Community Networking 101

Posted: May 12, 2014

In today’s world of information overload it’s hard to keep track of who’s doing what, even in our own neighborhoods. And if you’re even a moderate technophobe, the array of social media that purports to link everyone to everything can be just as daunting.

I've found that the basics of networking haven't changed: it's about opening doors and creating links between people who share a common interest. This still happens face to face (F2F for you high-tech readers) all the time. Chamber of Commerce mixers are great examples, combining social and business activity in a relaxed environment. Service clubs also provide a good venue for building networks.

We can do a lot of networking one-on-one, too. Here are a few practices that I've found especially useful:

  • Share the web. How often does something cross your desk (or your screen) that isn't relevant for you, but could be a great opportunity for another organization in your community? They fill your inbox: announcements of grant opportunities, meetings, webinars, training sessions, even blogs like the one you're reading right now. Before you hit 'delete', send it to someone who might benefit from the information. Add a sentence or two explaining why you think it would be useful. (But do avoid becoming a chronic sender - too much information will ruin your chance at building a relationship).
  • Ask for referrals. Someone you already know can connect you with someone you want to know. We're all experts in something, so ask for a referral. 'Who do you know who's working in strategic planning?' 'Do you know anyone doing environmental education on aquatic life?' Be specific in what you're looking for.
  • Ask for introductions. This is such an easy ask, and it can happen in different ways. I can introduce you to my colleague in person, or by email to the two of you. Or I can simply suggest that you use my name as a 'door-opener' when you contact my colleague. Or maybe I will contact the colleague and tell him or her about you. A few minutes of my time may result in an important new relationship for you.
  • Close the loop. Don't forget to circle back to thank the person who made a referral or introduction on your behalf. Not only will he or she be gratified to know the information was valuable, but your needs will stay on his or her radar screen, too.

Simple steps like this can go a long way towards establishing relationships. It's pretty hard to build collaborations and partnerships with people you don't know. So give networking a try!

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Community Networking 101

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Contact Information

Judy Chambers
  • Educator, Economic and Community Development
Phone: 717-334-6271 x313