New Jobs that Support Collaborative Work

In the late 1990’s, I shifted my work from environmental management consulting towards a focus on sustainability. At the time, most of my friends and family, had not even heard of the word “sustainability” and I struggled to explain it as well as to figure out a way to make a living doing this work. About 8 years later, I had to laugh when a friend forwarded an article from a popular magazine listing “sustainability consultant” as one of the hot jobs of the decade. In my work lately, I have been intrigued to see how new job roles and titles are emerging as we invent ways to collaborate across organizations and as the nature of work changes from traditional organizational structures to peer-to-peer networks. Here are some of the new job titles/roles I have seen emerging: Network WeaverJune Holley popularized this term and she defines it as: “someone who is aware of the networks around them and explicitly works to make them healthier (more inclusive, bridging divides.) Network weavers do this by connecting people strategically where there is mutual benefit, helping people identify their passions, and serving as a catalyst for self-organizing groups.” In a healthy network, many people in the network play this role so the webs of collaboration and communication strengthen.

Network Coordinator – A network coordinator provides strategic, operational and logistical support to enable people and organizations in a network to collaborate. Several of our clients have been challenged with how to craft a job description for this role, as it calls for different skills and orientation than a traditional Executive Director or CEO. This job description for the Director position in the Vermont Energy Action Network offers one model. It states “There is no road map for this job…The Director is the public face of this effort, [Network] assuming at various times the roles of entrepreneur, teacher, public speaker, bridge builder, and facilitator.”   

Data Scientist – A recent Harvard Business Review post declared data scientists to be the sexiest job of the 21st century. A data scientist “is a high-ranking professional with the training and curiosity to make discoveries in the world of big data.” The need for this role as emerged information comes in “varieties and volumes never encountered before.” Data scientists have the skills to “mash up” various data sets in new ways, visualize it, to provide new insights and capabilities for people, organizations, and networks. The ability to do storytelling with data and measure, collect, and synthesize data to enable learning and strategic action is critical.

Technology Steward – Many communities and networks have been challenged by how to use technology effectively to support their work. Stories are all too frequent of major investments being made in collaborative software that does not get used. Our colleague Patti Anklam recommended the book Digital Habitats, whose authors Etienne Wegner, Nancy White, and John Smith, noticed an emerging role in a community of a “technology steward” which they defined as “people with enough experience of the workings of a community to understand its technology needs, and enough experience with technology to take leadership in addressing those needs. Stewardship typically includes selecting and configuring technology, as well as supporting its use in the practice of the community.”

What new job roles have you seen?

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