Academic journal article Group Facilitation

The Virtuous Cycle of Social Support and Trust in Network Facilitation

Academic journal article Group Facilitation

The Virtuous Cycle of Social Support and Trust in Network Facilitation

Article excerpt


Inter-organizational networks are an interesting area for group facilitation, given the many complexities involved across the various communities of interest, and adding to that, the challenge of working with those in positions of representation - mandated or otherwise on behalf of a wider community. This study attempts to illustrate empirically the symbiotic relationship between social support and trust in network facilitation. Interestingly, it also highlights some of the relationships found between age, gender and social support within the network.


This article explores the virtuous cycle of social support and trust within an inter-organizational network. The concepts of social networks and network facilitation are first discussed, as well as how they fit into group facilitation scholarship. Then the notions of social support and trust are considered, followed by a brief analysis of how they relate to empowerment theory in the field of facilitation. The relationship between social support and trust is examined statistically, which provides the basis for a discussion of the implications of those findings. Empirical support is provided to illustrate the symbiotic relationship between social support and trust in network facilitation, as well as the statistical relationships that age and gender had with social support (whereby women and elders experienced more social support in the network). Finally, strategies for providing and nurturing social support, trust, and relationships in social groups are reflected on, along with specific suggestions for interventions that can be used by network facilitators and facilitators more generally. Understanding the virtuous cycle between social support and trust is helpful for facilitators interested in the relational dimension of facilitation, and for figuring out ways of empowering groups to be more self-directed and effective by building and supporting the relational capacities of the group members.

The study considered here examines facilitation within an inter-organizational network of peace movement non-profit organizations in Minnesota that were involved in efforts to protest the United States' role in the Iraq War in 2009. The forty-two organizations studied fit within a wider network of American and international peace movement organizations, some of which (like Students for a Democratic Society, Pax Christie, and Veterans for Peace) had relationships with affiliate local branches in Minnesota. Others that did not have local offices (like War Resister's League) informed the work of activists through common listservs, newsletters, and activist relationships made at national protests, and maintained these relationships through e-mail and common friends. Minnesota is a hub for such activity, being the location for the headquarters of some prominent American peace movement organizations such as Women Against Military Madness, Anti-War Committee, Nonviolent Peaceforce, and World Citizen, as well as a variety of active peace churches.

This is a particularly interesting research population in which to examine the virtuous cycle between social support and trust for several reasons. First and foremost, it provides a context to examine facilitation in an inter-organizational network, which is a unique setting for facilitation, especially when considering the effects of facilitation on network performance. In addition, the network of organizations studied was extremely active over the course of the study, organizing their annual protest on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, as well as a wide-range of weekly, monthly, and one-time events (such as protests and presentations). The goals of the group - protesting American involvement in the Iraq War - also illustrate a manner in which facilitation and facilitators can engage with critical political, social, sociocultural, and global concerns. This study is also an exemplary case for illustrating the dynamics associated with social support and trust because the vast majority of the study participants were unpaid volunteers, so network participation was based on relational and ideational incentives, rather than financial ones, and the network was a mature one, having been in existence for over six years at the time of the study. …

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