An Initiative of the International Youth Foundation

YouthActionNet Blog

A Living Network

Lisa Jones | January 6, 2014

How many networks do you belong to? From university alumni associations to professional organizations, even LinkedIn groups, most of our names can be found on a plethora of network lists. But how many of those networks really work for you? Who do you turn to during your most vulnerable leadership moments and with whom are you most excited to share amazing news?

Our most valuable networks are those comprising like-minded individuals who have a vested interest in the greater cause that brings them together. Members of these networks are more than names on a list; they are people we count on to challenge and inspire us not only professionally, but personally. The most valuable networks are living networks because one hundred email addresses on a listserv can’t replace a thoughtful conversation had across the table from a kindred spirit in a new city, or the relief of scheduling a video chat with someone who has lived through your current challenge. 

In 2013, nearly 200 young social entrepreneurs participated in YouthActionNet Fellowship programs around the world. Through intensive in-person trainings, each Fellow forged close ties with up to 19 like-minded peers from their class. Founders of organizations ranging from six volunteers to six hundred, Fellows come from diverse backgrounds and approach social change from different angles, but one sentiment is universal—each agrees that the opportunity to share and engage with others who have devoted their life to a cause is the most valuable aspect of the Fellowship experience. Many admit that entrepreneurship is a lonely endeavor, and begin to realize the potential for a larger movement towards social good when they learn that they now belong to a growing community of over 880 alumni like them. 

At YouthActionNet, we can build a network of the best and brightest in the world, but it can only truly come alive with the active engagement of each of its members. We see that buy-in time and time again through our alumni, young CEOs and founders who connect despite disparate time zones, busy schedules, and even language barriers. From midnight Skype sessions over gut-wrenching staffing decisions to meeting up at global conferences like the Clinton Global Initiative, our network comes alive through connections facilitated by our program, but driven by the basic need of the young leaders we serve to feel that they are not alone. 

The slideshow below is a collection of photos shared by our alumni of their meet-ups with one another (and YouthActionNet staff) around the world. Some are old friends, and some are meeting for the first time. This new year, think about how to make your networks work for you; and remember, we often get out what we put in to our networks. Make time to connect in person, not just on paper, to increase the net worth of your network.

If you are a young social entrepreneur interested in applying to become a Laureate Global Fellow, follow us on Facebook to be the first to hear about upcoming application dates.