This interview is part of the Network-Weaver Series. More info & interviews here!
Naomi Less – Jewish rock singer, experiential educator, and ritual facilitator – founded Jewish Chicks Rock to empower and ignite young Jewish women and girls to express themselves through music. She is a founding company member and director of education and training for Storahtelling and recently released her new CD, “The Real Me.” Naomi is a strong proponent of “the butterfly effect,” whereby her actions as a network weaver create a ripple of effects that even she may be unaware of.
What impact will adopting a networked approach have on the Jewish world?
There have been major – and I think positive – implications for the Jewish world. For existing networks, once participants in a program or project know that they can ask each other for support and share resources themselves, they don't need to rely on big trainings, top-down infrastructures, or in-person gatherings. Instead, they can find help, and get results, much faster. This is not a new innovation, but now the pace is much quicker due to access to information.
Network-weaving also allows new ideas to scale more quickly. Instead of working in isolation, you can easily find others in different communities who might be interested. Then, for example, from one Rosh Hashanah event or potluck Shabbat dinner, an interesting idea can gain traction and move quickly through the Jewish community, possibly helped by the creation of a network on facebook. Another example: This could explain the quick emergence of Occupy Judaism events across the US – the different cities are not dependent on each other, but know we can safely talk to each other and share ideas.
How has network-weaving benefited the field of Jewish education?
There has long been the complaint that Jewish education is 5-10 years behind the secular curve in terms of technology. Networks have shifted that. Networks like Darim convene people, connecting them to each other; Jewish Futures is sharing ideas, connections, and practices. Ideas that would have taken an in-person conference to explore are now moving around much more rapidly. For instance, Darim recently held a webinar on using QR codes. I predict that you're going to see QR codes crop up pretty quickly – because of the network around Darim, and because of people like me who attended and are network-weavers who will quickly adopt, use and share out that information, layering network upon network. Especially when these networks are made up of people who also manage networks, the dissemination of best practices happens at an exponential rate – and this has revolutionary power.
Can you describe some characteristics of successful network-weavers?
For me, there are two core ideas of practice: authenticity and insatiable curiosity.
Insatiable Curiosity: You need to ask questions not because you stand to gain from the answers but simply because you honestly want to know; you are insatiably curious about the other. Inherent in insatiable curiosity is deep listening: listening for what's there, what’s not there, and drawing people out in the process. The information you find leads you to the next question, and the next (that’s why it’s called insatiable) – you enjoy “interviewing” people without pressure, just for fun. Most likely, somewhere down the line the information you find out will be helpful to someone – but more importantly, the conversation will help build the relationship.
Authenticity: I work with teens a lot, and teens can smell authenticity a mile away. So can anyone else! The definition of authenticity is being your true self, being the real you, and being real about situations when you’re dealing with others. If you are asking someone for information, for instance, you should be honest in what you’re asking and why. Authentic requests cause people to place trust in you, and it’s likely they’ll come back to you if they need something as well.
What advice would you give to someone looking to weave networks?
If you're only interested in making connections to get a project done, network-weaving isn’t the job for you. You need to fundamentally like and be interested in people. As a successful network-weaver, those you connect will be more invested in you as a person than in your organization or product – it’s important to understand that, and the power of it.
The more we learn about what networks can and should do, the more we can anticipate and use the space of our networks to achieve our goals.
Naomi Less tweets as @jchicksrock and her website is www.jewishchicksrock.org
Her music can be found on itunes and cdbaby.com.