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Small Connections

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small-connections.jpgYou should have seen my face when I read I get to work with Meredith! We have known each other since our sons were in kindergarten. But they are off to college now and we both moved so we don’t see each other much. Meredith Shank is a fantastic combination of creativity and being able to get things done. But I have to say I never would have thought of asking her to work with us. I didn’t know we had a role that would use her wonderful talents. It takes SVP to make such a match!

That’s the way the email started from the Executive Director at Mountains-To-Sound Greenway, an SVP Investee, when Mike Quinn matched up SVP Partner Meredith Shank to help with surveys and mapping of the MTS coalition members, a strategic volunteer job to build MTS’ organizational capacity. Meredith is passionate about literacy, empowering children, and preserving our environment. After a short stint in the for-profit world focused on Market Research, New Product Development and Strategic Planning, Meredith turned her attention to helping educational organizations. She has worked directly with children as a reading tutor and creative problem solving coach and has collaborated across adult stakeholder communities as a board member at Seattle SCORES and a volunteer in various school and educational organizations around Seattle/Bellevue. Meredith grew up outside Boston, and developed her love of the marine environment while sailing and exploring the bays and estuaries of Cape Cod and Rhode Island.

Sometimes the connections SVP makes are between new members of grant committees or several Partners that have a common community interest or … life-long friends that haven’t connected for years. Sometimes the connections happen intentionally, or as part of a structured group … and sometimes it happens on-the-fly and out of nowhere, like for Cynthia and Meredith. In fact, as SVP’s network grows and strengthens, there are more of the latter than the former and that’s great.

That’s where some of the real magic and great ideas happen.

So much of philanthropy is done individually or one event at a time. Networks like SVP make connecting possible so much more than the exchange of financial capital and writing a check. Most of us know the effects of networks by now, but are used to hearing it applied in other parts of life or business. As the number of nodes (e.g. Partners) in a network increases arithmetically, the value of the network increases exponentially. If 4 people join a network, there are 6 potential one-to-one connections. If you add a fifth, the network increases to 10 connections, etc. At 270 Partners, there are 35,000+ possible connections! When you also factor in combinations of 3, 4, etc. people, the math goes crazy. That’s what you and we are building together.

I also love this quote from Meg Wheatley: “There is no power equal to a community discovering what it cares about. It takes two or three people to notice they’re concerned about the same thing and then the world begins to change… Friends talk to friends. They talk to others and it grows and grows.” … Or Cynthia talks to Meredith and …

– Paul Shoe

Paul Shoemaker

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