Back to the F**kture: Victoria Stoyanova

type - podcast
No longer a dirty byword for corporate grubbiness, effective networking has become the latest tool being used by super-connectors like Victoria Stoyanova to reboot everything from innovation to how we grow our entrepreneurial networks. The Future Laboratory’s co-founder Martin Raymond finds out more on his Back to the F**Kture podcast.

A woman who is more connected than Clapham Junction on steroids. That’s how a mutual colleague describes the connective powers of Victoria Stoyanova, my latest Back to the F**kture podcast guest.

She has also been described as a ‘super-connector’ (a term she isn’t keen on), the Supreme Networker-in-Chief (she giggles at this one), and – the phrase she most prefers – a community facilitator where ‘collaborations are encouraged and done without expectation of return or reward’.

And this, she believes, is the essence of effective networking in this age of Zoom fatigue, hybrid working and social media #mememe too selfishness: giving joyously – a word she uses without taint or irony – and doing so within communities and collaborations that ‘facilitate new relationships, broaden your knowledge base, and share and discuss new opportunities’.

For her, effective networking isn’t about garnering influence, or crucially, about becoming an influencer – think fans, followers and the opinionated ‘I’ – but about becoming a facilitator and connector. Think community, collaboration and the collectivist ‘we’.

Connecting like this, she tells me, ‘can’t be extractive, it needs to be generative’. But ­– and this is key to networking moving forward, she says – ‘it also needs to be human, face to face, done with intention’.

This craving for the human touch comes with its own pitfalls, she believes. After two years working from home, communicating on Zoom and being alone, we now need to learn to belong again, and to rekindle skills and attributes such as empathy, listening, generosity and sharing.

Published by:

9 June 2022

Author: Martin Raymond and Victoria Stoyanova



Networking, in other words, as she is redefining it through her recently founded Institute of Belonging, which is a space – real and digital – designed to bring people together to experiment, play, learn and co-create.

Networking, she believes, when done collectively, kick-starts innovation, unlocks opportunity and drives change. That said, as I explain in my latest masterclass series on networking, for many – especially Gen Z entrepreneurs and Millennial business leaders – it still has grubby associations with lunging business cards (remember them?), pump-action handshakes and aftershave that whacks you like an oncoming e-scooter.

Indeed, on the podcast, we both joke about the fact that in one academic study – tellingly called The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties – interviewees who were asked for their thoughts on networking subconsciously felt dirty and had the overwhelming desire to wash their hands afterwards. And all this before Covid! But when the same group were asked to think about community, friendship, collaboration, which as Stoyanova points out, is the essence of effective networking, then people felt completely the opposite.

For her, networking is all about the five Cs – community, collaboration, conversation, creativity and curation. ‘But it is also about collectivist thinking, and about being generous with your time, with making connections and leaning in’.

She learned these things while voluntarily running the London chapter of Creative Mornings for over seven years, but honed them perhaps more strategically when running Meta’s European programmes investing in the growth of community builders, and the brand’s subsequent Ecosystems Partnerships initiative – which, as she explains, less opaquely, was ‘all about building support systems for communities at scale’.

But, as she reflects in the final stages of our podcast, it is also about understanding the true role that serendipity plays in growing these community networks, and by using chance encounters more proactively to unlock new paths, and hitherto unexpected innovations.

She believes that to do this at all, however, you must be willing to reach out and connect in the first place.

Tune in to the podcast on Audioboom, Spotify, Apple.