Developing a decentralized network

Strategies, interventions, and challenges

The transition from centrally organized networks to decentralized structures holds the potential to inspire creative and innovative ideas, facilitate the flow of information, develop high “emotional glue” between members, and create opportunities for serendipity. Getting there requires frequent, meaningful interactions, dedicated spaces, and catalysts. The Bosch Alumni Network has successfully established a variety of groups, including larger “Clusters” based on profession. As part of the decentralization process, the moderation of these Clusters has now been handed over to members of the network. We asked the moderators of three Clusters about their strategies, interventions, and challenges in developing these groups.

Cluster moderators are active members of the Bosch Alumni Network with a desire to nurture communication, exchange, and networking opportunities in their respective Clusters. They develop and implement strategies to increase engagement in the Cluster, bring people together, and encourage communication and knowledge sharing. A role newly established in 2022, every moderator or moderation team assumes this role for one year.

The moderators of the Clusters for “Culture”, “Science”, and “Sustainable Living Spaces” shared what their strategic plans and expectations were when they took on their roles and what they’ve learned along the way.

Sustainable Living Spaces Cluster
(approx. 900 members)

Moderator: Silvia Chakarova
Strategy: Mapping and understanding the Cluster and supporting its coalescence
Intervention: Regular online meet-ups to exchange; jointly planning new projects

What did you want to achieve as Cluster moderator?

My vision was to foster the dynamics within the Cluster and to support the exchange and collaboration between members.

I also wanted to cultivate a feeling of community.

What strategies did you pursue, and what interventions did you introduce?

My first action was to take a deep dive into the Cluster and the Bosch Alumni Network. I created a database of active people and their fields of interest as well as projects that had already been implemented. I reviewed activities and posts on the platform and went through various reports to get familiar with the Cluster and the network in general. And we initiated the ‘SLS Xchange’ online gatherings to get to know each other better.

What proved successful … and what just didn’t work?

I used the database to connect people to available opportunities and events. Getting to know more members personally helps a lot. We are still testing what will work and not work with the SLS Xchange sessions.

How does it feel to be responsible for the Cluster?

Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming at the beginning. I didn’t have experience with moderating such a big cohort of people. Today, I feel more confident and am actually quite eager to keep my active role within the Cluster and the entire network.

How did the group develop during your time as Cluster moderator?

I get positive feedback from members for the good and supportive energy of the Cluster. Still, I feel like the members should do an evaluation of the development of the Cluster.

Science Cluster
(approx. 600 members)

Moderators: Heinrich Zozmann, Raphael Karutz
Increase cross-sectoral work through cross-thematic events
Intervention: Meet-ups for exchange and joint planning of new projects

What did you want to achieve as Cluster moderator?

We pursued three interconnected goals:

  1. Map activities and active members in the Cluster
  2. Facilitate new connections among members
  3. Get palpable collaborations off the ground

What strategies did you pursue and what interventions did you introduce?

Our strategy was to increase connections and collaboration through cross-thematic events that appeal to many Cluster members. We pursued this strategy with in-person and virtual meet-ups to exchange on new projects together.

What proved successful … and what just didn’t work?

To render our main event—a three-day retreat—even more attractive, we included a one-day training on non-violent communication. This combination of skill development with room for exchange in a relaxed, remote and beautiful location created a lasting positive group dynamic. Still, getting collaboration off the ground needs dedicated organizers as well as appropriate structures and incentives—which are not always available.

How does it feel to be responsible for the Cluster?

We interpret our role as that of a facilitator—we provide situations in which members interact and exchange. From there, it’s up to everyone involved to make connections and keep them alive.

How did the group develop during your time as Cluster moderators?

We formed a core group of people who actively exchange and are developing ideas for joint projects. This is a great first step. In a second step, we hope to extend this activity and engage a larger group virtually, which has so far proved to be challenging.

Culture Cluster
(approx. 1,600 members)

Moderators: Ana Marica, Safak Ersözlü
Strategy: Increase connections and create space for exchange
Interventions: Monthly coffee breaks and monthly newsletters featuring anecdotes and news from the coffee breaks

What did you want to achieve when assuming the role of Cluster moderator?

We wanted to encourage the members to connect and engage with one another. As we already hosted two of the 2021 Impact Fields, assuming the Cluster moderation felt like a natural next step in our intention to support the Culture Cluster.

What strategies did you pursue and what interventions did you introduce?

We had two main approaches: (1) Monthly ‘Coffee Connect’ sessions—relaxed conversations to check in and mutually update each other. (2) Monthly newsletters that combine insights from the Coffee Connects with opportunities from across the network, recommended readings, and resources.

What proved successful … and what just didn’t work?

After testing different time slots for the Coffee Connects to include members from many different time zones, both the newsletter and the Coffee Connect sessions are well-established by now.

How does it feel to be responsible for the Cluster?

In the beginning, we had a lot of questions, but we approached our role with an experimental mindset—learning and adapting after each session and each newsletter.

How did the group develop during your time as Cluster moderators?

Members got to know each other, exchanged ideas, and found commonalities in their work. The newsletter eventually gained traction as well and encouraged members to interact.

This article was orginally published in the iac Berlin Activity Report 2022. The entire report is available as free download:


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Learn more about the network coordinators at our Team page.