I had a conversation with a Network member the other day about margin stacking. Margin stacking is the cost or profit margin that each member of the supply chain contributes to bring a product to the end user. That’s the official definition. I am thinking about an additional definition. I think margin stacking is what happens when we work together in community, and the sum of the value we each bring adds up to more than what each one of us contributed individually. That synergy makes margin stacking something more than just profit-taking. It makes it a measure of the value of our communities. It helps us define what a community is. So many leaders in the Network are talking about quantifying their communities. How are they doing it? Through values, culture, and the stories they tell. They assess values and culture to measure their progress, and they listen to the stories they tell each other to measure alignment. This isn’t just about measuring numbers. It is about the quality of our shared values.

Measuring ourselves gives us security. It gives us something to compare ourselves to. It tells us whether we can give ourselves a pat on the back for work well done, or whether we need to work harder. It answers our big questions about ourselves: Am I right? Am I good enough? Do I measure up? One network member was asking me what the big questions of development officers are right now. I think all of us, not just development officers, are asking ourselves if we are doing the right thing right now. What do we need to do to be secure? But one network member, I think, asked a better question, “How do we balance autonomy and security?” In other words, how do we be bold enough to make a difference, despite our fears?

I have heard two things recently that suggest an answer to that question. “What is our neighbor experiencing right now?” This Network leader was talking about all his neighbors, not just the ones across the street. I love this question because it is hard to be afraid when we are putting ourselves in the shoes of others. And after we have done that, “How do we empower people to use their gifts?” That Network leader knows that being bold means elevating the assets of everyone around us. When everyone is contributing their gifts, the margins are not only stacked, they are exponential.