The Rise of Semi-Private Networks

Your Networks

The rise of semi-private networks is helping to organize the people and companies we work with to create new value.

Author and idea maven, Seth Godin, anticipates, “These entities will become ever more powerful as the economies of the firm begin to fade, replaced by the speed and resiliency of trusted groups.”[1]

A group of licensed doctors may belong to a platform to share certain patient information. Concerned parents and teachers might set up a discussion board for others working to help educate kids with special needs.

For example, Ellevate is a global professional network for women “leading the charge in changing the face of business.” A group I belong to, Internet for Jobs (, includes executives, NGOs, and entrepreneurs across the globe. It goes in a virtual, and occasionally in-person, the conversation about a people-centred economy. Salesforce’s Dreamforce, billed as one of the largest technology conferences in the world, makes connections across entire networks of clients and supply teams and encourages them to feel connected and part of the tribe.

These trusted groups can serve as either Special Ops teams or as Community Gardens. In the first instance, they are a network of people you trust by screening (licensed doctors) or mindset (people-centered work) from which you can assemble a crackerjack team to tackle a given project. These are often time-bound, results-driven, and specific to one goal. The ability of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) to gather a team of specialists to deliver emergency aid is one example.

Cultivating Relationships Over Time

If you want to cultivate your relationships over time for information sharing or content co-creation, you might consider a community garden. A community garden is a small plot in a neighborhood where neighbors come to enjoy the plants. Also, they cultivate flowers and vegetables and participate in making their neighborhood a more enjoyable place for all.

Firstly, define your space, have a good leader and facilitator. Secondly, try to invite others to come by regularly or contribute when they can. David Nordfors and Vint Cerf, cofounders of i4j, have led and facilitated this in their community, co-developing books and conferences. People can contribute as expertise or time allows. Relationships spin off into other projects. For example, education expert Donna Eiby has drawn upon people in the i4j community to help develop content for the Future Work Skills Academy (FWSA). It is a digital platform that brings together the world’s leading contemporary thinkers and practitioners in the key skills identified by the Institute for the Future (IFTF).

Whatever way you find it useful to organize for your work, “Professional loyalty now flows ‘horizontally’ to and from your network rather than ‘vertically’ to your boss,” Reid Hoffman paraphrases from Dan Pink.[2] In the future, it will be crucial to build up a network of trust, loyalty, and shared practice.

Finding Your Network

If you are someone who finds networking itself to be odious or you don’t know where to start, consider joining professional networks, past colleagues, school alumni, or business chambers.

One trick I learned from entrepreneur and speaker David Goldsmith is to speak at a conference so that you don’t have to introduce yourself; people will come up to you after your talk.

Finally, consider how you organize your network. It could be on email, LinkedIn, with an Excel spreadsheet, or with a more robust contact management service like Salesforce, Nimble, or Contactually. These people are your future coworkers, clients, and collaborators.

If you still hesitate where to start with your network, you can ask me for a coaching session or join my Future Proof online course.

Adapted from Future Proof.


[1] Seth Godin, “Semi-public,” Seth’s Blog, September 19, 2018, accessed September 29, 2018,

[2] Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, The Start-up of You, 6.