David Brown interviewed by Deborah Fishman
Deborah Fishman is a network weaver interested in new opportunities to create change in the Jewish world. She was most recently Editor & Publisher of PresenTense Magazine. She tweets as @deborahfishman.
David Brown is Social Action Coordinator atJHub in London, working on the Jewish Social Action Forum’s Big Green Jewish and Fairtrade campaigns. He is also the European coordinator of SIACH: A Global Environment and Social Justice network, and was on the core volunteer team recently for Limmud Conference in the UK.
I come to the world of networks with a lot of stereotypes in mind. I always thought of it as very utilitarian and transactional – it’s schmooze, booze, and people talking while looking over their shoulders to see if they see someone more interesting to talk to.
For me, the antidote was a session led by Seth Cohen which I attended at ROI about purposefulness in connections: finding ways to connect that are meaningful and values-based. Seth asked participants to write down people they had been introduced to that they found interesting and have gone on to build worthwhile connections with, the people they had introduced to others, and who had introduced others to them (who were their ‘connectors/weavers’). I realized I had really benefited from being introduced to others, and decided that now it was time to more consciously start doing the introducing.
What was it like to start being a connector?
At the start, it felt uneasy. It still felt a bit transactional: I felt like I was using people for their particular expertise rather than thinking about them as whole people. But I found that if I consciously thought that every time I met someone I had to try to connect them to someone else, whether or not I stood to gain from it personally, then when I was doing it for my own initiatives I could feel more comfortable with that.
I started introducing people doing interesting stuff, and I saw how grateful those people were.
What for you has been the added value in being part of networks?
What I’ve found great about humanity is how diverse we are. Being part of networks connects me with that diversity – not only because of the range of people you meet, but in the way you get to know people as holistic and appreciate how different areas of their personality or passion overlap in the web of purposeful connections that they are a part of. You also get to understand the great stuff going on out there, which is very motivational.
My Jewish identity really comes from the opportunities I’ve had to connect with people around the world, which allowed me to hear different ways of being Jewish in the world, beyond my narrow one in Britain. I’ve also learned all kinds of skills – such as to be a better public speaker – and made some great friends out of it too.
How do you use network-weaving in your work at the Jewish Social Action Forum?
The Jewish Social Action Forum is a network which is focused on campaigns around issues such as poverty, race, asylum, and the environment. The goal is to get more people doing Jewishly-inspired social action. When it first started doing this work, JSAF found it needed to make stuff happen but hadn’t necessarily brought all members along with it. So we did a consultation with the members. We applied community organizing tools by investing in personal relationships first.