Consider the allies and advisers who support your leadership; create a network map of those people to visualize the resources available to you.

A writing and thinking assignment, with a bit of drawing. This is a solo assignment


Have completed all previous sections and modules


Pen or pencil and paper

Support Networks for Open Leadership

As mentioned in the section introduction, working open is all about relationships. As project lead, you’ll need to establish good working relationships with an ever-growing, diverse community of contributors. Any time a group of people come together to do exciting, creative work, there will necessarily be struggles. It’s important that you, as project lead, have support and help that you can count on when things get challenging. So before you grow a community of contributors around your project, identify a smaller group of people who support you as an open leader.

These supporters are people with whom you have person-to-person connections. They should be much closer to you than, say, a social media follower or someone you’ve run into once or twice at at a meetup. Support can come in many different forms. It can mean someone who shares or champions your vision, someone who serves as a partner or colleague in this work, someone who funds your project or has been reliable and enthusiastic about contributing time, work, advice. It can be someone in your life who doesn’t work on the project, but offers emotional support or encouragement. You will be far more effective as a leader when you have your own mentors, cheerleaders, and supporters. **These are people who can encourage and advise you; they’ll be your closest allies in creating this project. In the following video, Amira Dhalla describes how she uses her close support network to help her improve her written communications for her work as Lead of Mozilla’s Women in Web Literacy program.**

Support Networks For Open Leadership, Amira Dhalla

By describing your support network and the kinds of relationships you have, you’re in a better position to remember to draw on that group of advisers and allies when times get tough. And if your support network is vanishingly small, or if there isn’t anyone who supports you (yet), that may be a sign that you need to reach out and create more of those kinds of relationships.

Assignment: Visualize your own Support Network

In this Assignment, you’ll begin thinking of who is in your support network, and how you’re connected to them. You’ll make a personal, network map of these close connections which you can add to and revisit as needed. Here are two examples of network maps:

  1. Start your network visualization. Begin by adding yourself as the first point or node in your network graph. But you’re not alone!
  2. Add supporters. Think of at least 2 or 3 people closest to you who support you in this work. These people may be friends, advisers, mentors, spouses, parents, etc. Using the tool, enter the names of your closest supporters (choose settings). You’ll see them pop up around your node in the visualization.
  3. Add one or two future supporters. Think a small number of people you’d like to bring in closer, to help you with the project. These are people that you know well, who may know of your project or vision, but aren’t actively involved or supporting you at this time. They are people who could contribute something significant or powerful to you as you lead, and who might share your vision or be inspired and activated by it if they knew more. Enter them into your visualization, using the tool. You’ll see they appear on the outskirts of the project, without a strong connection to your work.
  4. Take a moment to appreciate your network! You are not alone in this work.
  5. Think about how to expand your network. Choose one of the peripheral people in your network, the person who you think might help you most. Think about how you might engage and approach them, to bring them closer to you. Make an effort to take action on this step.

At times when you’re struggling or experiencing setbacks on your project, return to this visualization and tap the people listed here for help. Reach out to your supporters for advice and assistance, but also be sure to share your successes and discoveries with them, too! Like all networks of humans, your support network relationships are flexible and dynamic. You can add to this network visualization anytime– you may want to make it a goal to expand your support network (slowly) as your project grows. If you’re running at truly welcoming open project, this may happen organically.

next: Contributor Personas & Pathways  

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