When Building Your Regional Flavor Strategy, “Network Weaving” is the Craft, Your Small Town is the Loom.

by Joanne Steele on November 30, 2009


In rural communities we’re all pretty clear that the “THEY” who needs to do something is really “US”, and with a clear plan, we can accomplish anything including creating a network of support for a Regional Flavor Strategy.

Regional Flavor Principle #3 depends on YOU to get the ball rolling, whether you are a business owner, the chamber of commerce director or a volunteer with a local service or arts organization.

Association for Enterprise Opportunity’s Regional Flavor Principle #3:

Help weave together the assets of an area such as the artists, specialty food producers, local heritage, recreation opportunities, etc, and create practical activities across political jurisdictions.

Here’s a plan to WEAVE your region together into an effective network of cooperating entities interested in working to become a Regional Flavor Destination.

In our last Regional Flavor Strategy post we talked about identifying your town and region’s assets.  You probably have a mental list of businesses, people, organizations, attractions and activities and services.

1. Get out a piece of paper for this activity.  Put a dot somewhere on your paper and label it with one of your assets. Draw and label another dot, placing it close to the first dot if they are somehow related assets, or further away if they’re not. Keep putting labeled dots on your paper until you’ve represented all your identified assets.

Here is an example I started for my small town:nodes

2. Draw lines linking dots that are related as I did in my example. At this point your diagram represents OPPORTUNITY. Each one of those little clusters is a group of assets that already are working together.

They share common interests. They know each other’s problems and challenges. They are used to working together to do marketing or to help your town.

3. Now, see how many of these clusters are already strongly linked together. Look for clusters that share a strong leader. Look for clusters that regularly work on projects of common interest. Draw a solid line to link these clusters, as you see in my example.networks

4. Next look for clusters that share members. They might not have a strong connection, but with members involved in both clusters, there are common interests and concerns. Draw a broken line to connect these clusters.

You have created a NETWORK WEAVING of interconnected interest clusters that represents your town.

Before you can “create practical activities across political jurisdictions” as stated in Principle #3, you need to work to expand your woven network of connected interests.

Those unconnected clusters need to be interwoven and those broken lines need to be strengthened to solid lines representing strong connections.

Most efforts to create any kind of a regional strategy fail because they are ideas imposed on isolated interest clusters rather than being generated by a woven network of related networked clusters.

Build your town’s Woven Network first and your Regional Flavor Strategy will be successful.

In Valdis Krebs and June Holley’s paper, “Building Smart Communities Through Network Weaving”, they stress that creating strong networks leading to vibrant communities start with a NETWORK WEAVER.

Here’s how Krebs and Holley define a Weaver:

“The weaver has the vision, the energy, and the social skills to connect to diverse individuals and groups and start information flowing to and from them.”

Are you the Network Weaver who will connect all the clusters you’ve discovered in your town or region?

Do you know of an organization that can function as the Network Weaver?

In my town, our Revitalization Committee is becoming the Network Weaver. We have representatives from our city council, our chamber of commerce and our leading recreation and dining destinations working together to “connect the dots” on our network map.

When I discovered Krebs’ and Holley’s paper, I knew instantly that this concept would work well for small towns. This paper was created for the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet). I recommend that you download and read the whole paper.

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