Building Communities and Networks


  • Time Frame: 2.5 or 3 hours. Longer time for more participants.
  • Suggested number of participants: 6-18
  • Materials needed: Blank thank you note cards [do I include worksheets here?]
  • Room Setup: tables of 4-6
Download the Curriculum

Relationships matter. Communities, networks, and mentoring relationships are all essential for developing as a leader and having impact. However, we don’t often take the time to think strategically about our relationships and be intentional about how to be generous in the relationships we do have.

This workshop begins with why networks, communities, and mentors matter. It then quickly shifts to tools for thinking through your network and community, identifying mentors, and keeping network connections strong.

  • What is the value of a community and network for leadership?
  • Who is in your network? How are you connected to them? Why do you value these relationships?
  • What skills/competencies/perspectives are you interested in developing, and who can help you do so?
  • How do you keep connected and be of help to people in your community and network?
Facilitator Outcomes Participants will be able to:
  1. Introduce the perspective that a vibrant network and community is essential for developing as a leader, having impact, and making progress in one’s career. Clarify the idea that being generous in these relationships is important for transformational work.
Describe why relationships matter for leadership, careers, and impact and express understanding that generosity in relationships is helpful in this work.
  1. Describe the process of drawing one’s network and give participants the opportunity to practice.
Visualize their own key relationships and networks and recognize important connections, missing links, and useful patterns.
  1. Provide an overview of thinking through mentoring relationships starting from the perspective of skills/capacity development and have students work through a structure process from this perspective. Facilitate conversation about this process.
Articulate skills/capacities they would like to develop and identify potential people who could be mentors for developing these skills/capacities.
  1. Facilitate conversation about strategies for following up on connections and maintaining relationships. Have students write a thank you note.
Discuss ways to keep vibrant network connections and use the tool of writing a thank you note.
  1. Build a community in the room and demonstrate the idea that everyone has something to give through sharing activity.
Recognize that they have many things to offer others in their networks and community and practice doing so.
  1. Debrief workshop and ask students to commit to an action to work on their community/network/mentoring relationships.
Propose an action step or two to improve network relationships.

Workshop Materials


    Sample Agenda

    1:30 – 1:45 Introductions & Why Are You Here?

    • Why are you here?
    • What are some skills you want to develop?
    • What are your biggest challenges in cultivating a network?
    1:45 – 1:55 Why Networks Matter

    • Insert personal story about how a network helped you (ex: How I got my first job)
    • People care about others
    • We can’t all be experts at everything
      • Healthy ecosystems
      • Getting work done through networks
    • This is something you need to cultivate before you really need it. It makes that cultivation more genuine and less scary
      • Insert personal story
    • This is a mind set and way of approaching the world. It’s something you can develop and practice. And, once you start doing it, you might just enjoy it!
    1:55– 2:15 Mapping Your Network-Activity

    Every once in awhile I like to draw my network. This is not a science. It just helps me see who is in it, where I have strengths, how they are connected to each other. I intentionally don’t ask you to do this in one way.

    • Who are you connected to?
      • Friendships
      • Family
      • Work Colleagues
      • Volunteer or community organizations
    • Why do you value this relationship?
    2:15-2:35 Thinking Through Mentors-Activity

    • How are you interested in developing
      • What kind of people would work best for these skills
      • Who from your above network could you more actively cultivate as a mentor?
    • Think about aspirational networking, role models, and peer networking/coaching
    2:35-2:45 Break



    Following up with connections – Presentation/Discussion

    • How could you be useful to the people in your network?
    • How can you pay it forward?
    • Writing a thank you note/connection note.

    Let’s practice as a group. What do you need and what do you offer?

    2 minutes each

    You’ll need to be pretty strict with this one.


    What will you commit to?

    What worked/what didn’t?

    Pre-Workshop Email
    We recommend sending out the pre-workshop email one-week before and a short follow-up two days before the workshop. This workshop does not require any pre-work before the workshop, but you could include a link to a TED Talk to help prime students for the workshop experience.

    Here’s an example:

    Dear Workshop Participants:

    Thank you for signing up for the Building Communities and Networks workshop. The workshop will take place in the Learning and Environmental Sciences Building on the St. Paul campus from 1:30-4 p.m. in R-380 on Thursday.

    Workshop Description:
    Mentors, collaborators, colleagues, teams, networks. Leaders, by definition, don’t work alone. Collaborating with others helps us get things done. This workshop will focus on why networks matter, why communities matter and why mentors matter. You’ll acquire new tools to help you think through your own relationships and how to make them better.

    Please let me know if you are unable to attend by simply changing your response in the Google calendar invite by noon tomorrow. This will help us be better stewards of the environment by printing the right amount of materials.

    There is no pre-work required for this workshop. You will need a pen. If you have time, I recommend watching this TED Talk by Jessica Posner on how they built community in Kibera- one of the poorest areas in Kenya ( It’s less than 10 minutes long.

    I look forward to meeting with you on Thursday,

    *Please note, that in the future, Boreas will be charging students who do not show up to workshops. Please be mindful in your RSVP. It helps us save resources and allows other students to attend who we may have turned away.

    Post-workshop handout

    Post-workshop email

    We recommend sending out the post-workshop email within a day or two of the completion of the workshop, to remind participants of any actions they planned to take on going forward, and to get feedback while experience is still fresh.

    Here’s an example:

    Dear Workshop Participants:

    Thank you for attending the Building Communities & Networks workshop. We hope you’ll take some of the tips from this workshop and start intentionally building your networks. 
    We’re always looking to make these workshops more useful and effective, so please take moment to complete the attached survey and let us know what was helpful about the workshop and what else you would hope to gain from a future workshop.
    Thank you
    [Your name]
    Survey Example
    Click here for Google form.
    Ideally, the post-workshop email will include a link to post survey utilizing Survey Monkey, Google Forms, or a similar easy-to-use application. Here are some examples of questions:
    Did you gain the skills you hope to gain from this workshop?

    If not, what did you hope to learn that you would like to see in a future workshop?

    What were the most valuable take-aways?

    Do you have a better picture of the networks and communities of which you are a part, and how you benefit from them?

    Do you have new strategies for intentionally cultivating the kind of networks and mentors you want in your life?

    Please use this space to offer any other feedback you feel would be useful for the facilitators and for future workshops.


    Angelique, H., Kyle, K., & Taylor, E. (2002). Mentors and muses: New strategies for academic success. Innovative Higher Education26(3), 195-209.

    Allen, T. D., Lentz, E., & Day, R. (2006). Career success outcomes associated with mentoring others: A comparison of mentors and nonmentors. Journal of Career Development32(3), 272-285.

    Bland, C. J., Taylor, A. L., Shollen, S. L., Weber-Main, A. M., & Mulcahy, P. A. (2009). Faculty success through mentoring: A guide for mentors, mentees, and leaders. R&L Education.

    van Eck Peluchette, J., & Jeanquart, S. (2000). Professionals’ use of different mentor sources at various career stages: Implications for career success. The Journal of Social Psychology140(5), 549-564.


    An Introvert’s Guide to Networking
    Rick Turoczy explains that every person knows someone that someone else should know. That introverts can be comfortable with being uncomfortable by “collecting dots” and connecting dots only that willing individuals can see. If we are intentional on our own terms we can build community by making common sense, common.


    The Five Types of Mentors You Need in your Life
    Everyone can use a mentor. Scratch that — as it turns out, we could all use fivementors. “The best mentors can help us define and express our inner calling,” says Anthony Tjan, CEO of Boston venture capital firm Cue Ball Group and author of Good People. “But rarely can one person give you everything you need to grow.”

    Attending Boreas workshops has allowed me to learn and implement several valuable leadership tools in an increasingly connected world and how to present myself in a professional manner on paper, online, and in person.


    Melaney Dunne

    Master's Student Conservation Biology