In 1982, Doubleday published Networking: The First Report and Directory, Jeff's and my first book.
The story of how that book came to market someday will, or rather, should appear in the annals of publishing -- first publisher (Methuen, a British publisher aiming to break into the US market) shelved its whole list just after we'd submitted manuscript; Doubleday picked it up, offering more than twice the original advance (great agent at time, Ron Bernstein); we got the contract to do the electronic typsetting, making it the first commercial book to be electronically typeset under auspices of the authors, never having been retyped by its publisher; translated into Japanese by that country's Economic Planning Agency, and on and on -- but alas this post is about the treasure hunt that we're launching here today.
Networking was, as its subtitle says, a "report" on 1600 grassroots and nonprofit networks focused on the seven topics listed on the cover, along with a directory of those networks.
Within the book was everything from the theory and practice of networks -- with a chapter-long essay devoted to each topic -- to the directory itself, organized in various ways -- by organization name, by location, by keyword, and by title of the network's publications.
Those listed range from The Sun Magazine to World Future Society to Franz Schumacher's Intermediate Technology Group (now Practical Action) to Tilth to Aspen Institute to CoEvolution Quarterly to Dr. Dobb's Journal to the National Center for Citizen Involvement, now the Open Library (where our two earliest books, including this one are listed) and Boston Women's Health Book Collective, now Our Bodies, Ourselves, to which we devoted a chapter of its own because of its unique networking skills. The fact that it's still going after nearly forty years makes the point.
We did all the research via networking, beginning with one letter (as in type it, sign it, put it in an envelope, attach a stamp, go to the post office - remember that?) that we sent to one person whom we knew to be a richly connected networker, who suggested nine others, whom we wrote to, who in turn sent us other suggestions -- and within 18 months, we'd received the names of 50,000 "networks" around the world. We wrote to 4000 of them and got back an astonishing 40% response rate - 1600 letters, packages, publications, descriptions, many with heartfelt expressions of why their leaders networked and how they did it. Incredible experience, to say the least. No Internet. Limited email (a little because a few of us pioneers were already online). Need I say: No web, no listservs, and, of course, no Google, Wikipedia, Twitter or Facebook. Just the poor postman, who left a trail of whiskey nips along our sidewalk.
So now it's 2009, more than a quarter-century later and we're wondering how many of those networks have survived (I chose the ones above that I could google). Why now? Not just idle curiosity but intense awareness that there are similarities between the early 1980s and today. Principal among them unemployment, as per Paul O. Flaim's, "Unemployment in 1982: the cost to workers and their families:"
A few other interesting stats from then: the Dow was, get ready, 776 in August of that year, down 30% from its high of 1011 five years earlier. And, the drop in exports and spending just announced is mere fractions shy of "the 6.4 percent rate drop seen in the first quarter of 1982, when the economy was in a recession that lasted 16 months," according to Lucia Mutukani's "US economy weakens," in the Feb 29, 2009, Boston Globe.
Clearly, we made it through that tough time, not purely because of networking, of course (I'm not that much of a romantic), but in part because people got together and figured out some things they could do themselves. We're interested in how those networks have survived and intend to include them in the new bit of writing we're engaged in, details to come.
So would you please pass this note along to anyone you know who might have been in the book? When we have a spare minute (ha!), we'll scan the whole list and begin publishing that. Thanks in advance! And, Networking networkers, please post comments here.