Network Literacy: How and Why We Work

By: Bob Bertsch and Jessica Beckendorf

In the summer of 2018, the Network Literacy team gathered in Duluth, MN to re-ground our work together. It had been a long time since we had invested time in reflecting on our work and contemplating our future. As a result, we were floating a bit.  So we spent the better part of two days in a meeting room at Zeitgeist, a nonprofit arts and community development organization, doing out best to practice the Zeitgeist motto, “Connect. Create. Thrive.”

What emerged from our time together was a set of shared values, a model explaining how network practices lead to resilience and adaptation, and a vision for how our work can help guide people toward network practices. The infographic below begins to explain the values, model and vision, and their influence on how we approach our work and why we want to do this work together.

OneOp Network Literacy How and Why We Work infographic. Full text available below



Text from Infographic

OneOp Network Literacy – How and Why We Work

Values – Democracy. Social Capital. Equity.

These values, critical for living & working together in a complex world, guide our work to help people become more resilient and adaptive.

Networks – We all face complex issues that can only be addressed with emergent solutions. Network Literacy help people organize in networks to identify emergent issues and create innovative solutions.

  • Fractals – Often the same patterns are present in large-scale and small-scale change.
  • Emergence – The path to change cannot be predicted, it emerges from our work together.
  • Relationship – Our relationships with each other are the key that unlocks change.

Personal Growth – We need to project the patterns we want to see in the world. Network Literacy helps people pursue the personal growth necessary for building relationships and doing shared work.

  • Growth Mindset – Knowing that we can grow and change, and others can grow and change with us.
  • Asset-based – We grow by finding, developing & celebrating our strengths.
  • Storytelling – The stories we tell ourselves and others influence our ability to grow.

Collective Action – The solutions we seek will only be found together. Network Literacy helps people engage in meaningful collaboration to address complex issues from multiple perspectives.

  • Diversity – A diverse network allows for more creativity and innovation.
  • Co-learning – We are all learners and teachers. Sharing our experiences helps us move forward.
  • Shared Work – We seek inclusion, sharing work as well as power, credit and leadership.

Adaptation & Resilience – Adaptation and resilience are critical to living together in a complex world. Network Literacy helps people become more resilient and adaptive within complex social systems.

  • Practice – The skills we need to address complexity cannot be mastered, only practiced.
  • Reflection – Intentional reflection allows us to adjust to an ever-changing environment.
  • Connection – We must constantly seek connection between people and ideas to find our path together.

This is the thinking that underlies our work. To learn more, visit

With thanks to all who have inspired us,
Jessica Beckendorf & Bob Bertsch


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