Post-Conference Check Up on the Health of the Communications Network

Post from the 2011 Conference in Boston

By Dan Brady, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers

When I led the Group Therapy session “Culture Shift: Learning to Act as a Network,” based on the Connected Citizens report released by the Knight Foundation and the Monitor Institute, there was one area that we didn’t touch on, but now, with the conference behind me, it seems an appropriate point of reflection.

Towards the end of the report, author Diana Scearce provides a list of criteria for evaluating the health of a network.  Based on our collective experiences last week, let’s take a quick look at how the Communications Network measures up against Scearce’s checklist.


There was a little something for everyone at this year’s conference, which shows just how well-developed the network has become. Whether you’re a social media butterfly, a cocktail-hour networker, or new to the field and just looking to get your bearings, the conference offered sessions and situations tailor-made to your style. There’s no doubt that everyone came away from our meeting in Boston a little bit wiser and better connected.


Well, this one is clear. With over 270 participants, this year’s conference was packed with activity. From the Aquarium opening reception to the closing address by Van Jones, conference attendees were challenged to engage with one another and the world. Of course, participation in the Communications Network is not limited to the annual conference. Year-round you’ll find ample discussion and resource sharing on the network’s listserve and a whole lot of chatter on Twitter with the hashtag #ComNetwork.


The question of form has to do with weak and strong ties. At least from where I sit, both are present in the Communications Network. I’ve got a core group of folks who I feel closer to and with which I am more likely to ask questions and collaborate, but there’s a whole big network out there and I wouldn’t feel strange reaching out to any of you because our network glue.


Clearly, Executive Director Bruce Trachtenberg and the Communications Network board provide stellar leadership. Do you think a conference like this could come together without such a crackerjack team running the show? From lining up incredible speakers to organizing the Gorilla Engagement Squad, Bruce and the board know how to channel the network’s energy towards the most pressing issues and the most immediate connections.


The Communications Network provides multiple avenues for connection among members. I always come away from the conference with a handful of business cards and a whole list of new ideas to follow up on. Luckily for me, it’s easy to connect to everyone else in the network. We’re communications people! We’re everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you name it. We live and breathe email. We call. We ask questions. We share. It’s in our blood.

Capacity to Tap the Network’s Assets

The depth and breadth of knowledge present in the network was made clear by this year’s member-driven approach to the group therapy breakout sessions. I mean, wow, talk about the wisdom of the crowd. Don’t get me wrong, the outside speakers were great, but the most valuable content for me came from member interactions, and the conference gave us plenty of space to share what we know (and what we don’t).

Feedback Loops and Adaptation

Each year the conference evolves in response to member feedback. Was there something that you really loved? Or maybe something you could do without? Make sure to let them know*, because this is an organization that really does respond to member feedback and takes action for the betterment of the network.

*Note from Communications Network: Look for the post-conference survey in your email inbox in the coming days.  


  1. Thanks, Dan. We very much appreciate this assessment of the health of the Communications Network as a network. I also want to underscore your comments that if people have suggestions for next year’s conference in Seattle, to please let us know. The forthcoming post-conference survey will offer ample opportunities for that. People should also feel free to email me directly at

    Thanks again.

  2. Great blog Dan! Your session on networks was terrific and this is a great follow-up and overall assessment of the conference. As a Communications Professional, I find this the most useful professional development opportunity each year and have a host of take-aways, as I expected. Looking forward to the follow-up and continuing to connect to this excellent #comnetwork. Great job Bruce and all!

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