BUILDING AN INNOVATION NETWORK
Our Innovation Network methodology is based on Green America’s 30+ years of experience in leading collaborative innovation in sustainability.
It starts with employing a unique and systematic method for identifying stakeholders or key initiators with the highest potential to change systems.
A team comes together and sets goals that are big enough to be meaningful but not so big that they seem unfathomable. The real strength is the group’s ability to move extremely quickly, simultaneously analyzing the system while prototyping initiatives.
Our systematic approach
The whole system participates in creating market-based solutions but people are always at the ‘center’.
Our systematic approach to reframing key tensions that commonly pull stakeholders apart is a crucial source of innovation.
Essentially, our collaborative methodology is what sets the Center apart.
Monitor sustainability trends and challenges in supply chains and markets, where a collaborative innovation approach can lead to breakthrough.
Convene a Design Team
The Design team guides the process, oversees strategy, convenes and moves the Innovation Network forward. The Design Team is comprised of leaders, influencers and connectors.
Establish Audacious Goals
A good working goal is both big AND specific, and should be something that people can imagine—even if it seems unlikely in the current context. In our experience, it’s preferable to begin with a relatively narrow focus and expand the scope as needed.
Form Working Hypotheses
We document current hypotheses about causes and nature of the problems we are solving. While many efforts focus on proposing solutions and answers right away, it’s critically important to engage everyone in testing various assumptions and learning more about root causes, major barriers, and the best emerging opportunities before jumping to action.
Conduct Stakeholders Interviews
We typically conduct 120-150 stakeholder interviews when forming a new network. This includes a diverse group of key influencers across the system or value chain of interest. Such an extensive consultation process also alerts key influencers in the industry or issue area of our intent to form a group around the issue, which often contributes to greater interest and momentum.
Map System Dynamics
We use a number of tools to map networks of relationships, various types of leverage points in the system, the “winds” for and against change, and “key shifts” that need to happen in the experiences of people in the system we’re trying to change.
We reach out to and engage leaders, many identified through our interview process, to encourage participation in the Innovation Network.
Build A Dynamic Entrepreneurial Team
Our networks typically launch with a two-day meeting where the Center team shares the results of analysis, and the participants refine and validate the results, confirm the key leverage points, identify priority shifts, and develop an initial set of initiatives that the group members will prototype and further develop.
Network meetings usually have several regular elements: Shared Intelligence, where participants exchange new learnings, connections and information; Initiative Updates, where Initiative Groups brief the Network on their work and get feedback and suggestions; Learning “Deep Dives” where experts join the meeting to help the Network understand specific technical or other issues; and Assessing and Planning, where the Network as a whole assesses their progress against the goals and begins to plan the next stage of work.
Generate and test Initiatives
Initiative Groups quickly prototype and test solutions designed to produce specific results toward the Network’s overall goal.
Grow systems, network and processes that work, assess impacts and analyze next opportunities.
Innovation Networks are comprised of leaders across sectors who are able to lead systemic change in their industries.
A key element in the success of our innovation methodology is carefully selecting what we call Key Initiators, those leaders who are uniquely suited to lead change in complex, dynamic situations.
Key Initiators are:
Held in high regard by their peers (both inside their companies and in their segments of the value chain). This is because the group has far greater leverage when it's comprised of influential stakeholders who are admired for their integrity.
Highly knowledgeable of their subject area. Networks reflect top experts across the given value chain.
Personally committed to the innovation goal. Groups are designed in which 90% of the stakeholders are 100% committed to transformation and 10% are skeptics who are open to evidence-based learning. This allows the team to quickly build momentum and check key assumptions along the way.
Reflective and analytic while being oriented toward action. Conventional working groups are often full of thinkers who don’t act quickly, or vice versa. Key Initiators are able to do analysis and take action in rapid iterative cycles, allowing the network to develop and test market interventions within months, not years.
Able to represent their institution’s involvement. Each participant has personal motivations for participating in the group, yet many represent organizations with interests, priorities, and concerns. The team makes sure that individuals are capable of aligning their organization behind the goals and activities of the working group, and continually monitors “background pressures” on participants. .
Willing to collaborate. Key Initiators are able to creatively and continually integrate their personal and business interests with the large social objectives of the group, designing new opportunities for shared value.