Knowledge Exchange: Materials

Connecting to Change the World

Connecting to Change the World builds on an earlier resource that Pete and I developed called Net Gains. This latest collaboration with John Cleveland includes examples and lessons that have emerged from our work with social impact networks over the last decade or so. During that time, we’ve been introduced to many new networks and deepened our work with others. As a consequence, we have a better understanding of what makes some networks highly “generative.” By generative, we mean networks with a renewable collaborative capacity to generate numerous activities simultaneously. These are networks that activate members’ connections on an emergent basis as need and opportunities arise.

Examples in the book include RE AMP – more than 165 nonprofit organizations and foundations in eight Midwestern states working together on climate change and energy policies, Reboot- a network of young Jewish American “cultural creatives” who are exploring and redefining Jewish identity and community in the U.S. and the U.K., ten regional networks of state agencies and nonprofit providers that have organized to end homelessness in Massachusetts, and five regional and two national networks of rural-based organizations that are promoting public policies that benefit rural communities in the U.S. In all of these networks, members have been very deliberate about creating, strengthening and maintaining network ties in order to establish a base of connections from which many activities can arise at the same time or over time. This foundation is the starting point for the progression from connecting to aligning to production or joint action that we also discuss in the book.

Find a sample chapter and more on the Stanford Social Innovation Review site and you can get the book on Amazon or other online book sellers.

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Network Power for Philanthropy and Nonprofits

Drawing on cases of nonprofit networks, this article makes a case for widespread use of networks in the civil sector and examines the practical uses of the knowledge developed by “network science.” Individual chapters focus on the formation and structure of networks for philanthropy and non-profits from the most essential stages of development – framing and defining the term “network” itself – to the dynamics within existing networks and the interactions that sustain them over time. Written by Peter Plastrik and Madeleine Taylor for the Barr Foundation.

Download the article here

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Lawrence Community Works: Using Network Power to Restore a City

This case study offers a glimpse into the problems of Lawrence Massachusetts – a community facing the daunting task of restoring a dying industrial city – and the network of community residents – the Lawrence Community Works – who are approaching this challenge using an innovative strategy: network building. The study addresses the origins of Lawrence Community Works, the development of the network, it’s governance structure and open architecture, and the challenges the network will likely face in the future. Written by Peter Plastrik and Madeleine Taylor, for the Barr Foundation in 2004.

Link:http://www.barrfoundation.org/files/Lawrence_Community_Works_case_study.pdf

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Net Gains: A Handbook for Network Builders Seeking Social Change

Net Gains provides practical advice for the growing community of network builders developing networks for social change. The handbook draws from the experiences of network builders, case studies covering a diversity of different networks, and emerging scientific knowledge about “connectivity.” The guide is divided into four parts, each focusing on a specific element of network building and offering strategies for successful development of networks at different stages in their evolution, from the moment of their inception, to the management of their ongoing production.

The handbook can be downloaded here.

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Promising Practices: An Emerging Framework for Assessing Nonprofit Networks

Based on their handbook for network builders Net Gains, Madeleine Taylor and Peter Plastrik provide strategies for evaluating the work of nonprofit networks for social change. This article appears in the Harvard Family Project’s Evaluation Exchange Periodical issue XIII, released in 2007 and focuses on the unique characteristics and evolutionary paths of networks and how builders can customize evaluation to account for these factors.

http://www.hfrp.org/var/hfrp/storage/original/application/6bdf92c3d7e970e7270588109e23b678.pdf

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Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness
 (ICHH), Regional Networks to End Homelessness Pilot Final Evaluation Report

This final evaluation report describes the progress of the Regional Networks to End Homelessness toward goals set forth by the ICHH such reducing the need for shelter and achieving housing placement outcomes and increasing opportunities for broad-based discussion with diverse stakeholders. Following brief introduction and background sections, the report summarizes the findings of the evaluation in detail; and offers recommendations, based upon these findings for long and short term action. The evaluation informed the United Ways of Massachusetts and the ICHH’s immediate commitment of $1 million to support network coordination in all regions through the following fiscal year, and, as consequence of the pilot results, the state legislature approved Home BASE, a major program that builds on the innovations successfully used in the pilot.

Download the executive summary or the full report can be downloaded  here.

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How our work has been applied and cited

Following list of articles, books and publications offers a glimpse of how our work has been cited and applied across a variety of fields.

Net Gains: A Handbook for Network Builders Seeking Social Change
Hoppe, Bruce, and Claire Reinelt. “Social network analysis and the evaluation of leadership networks.” The Leadership Quarterly 21.4 (2010): 600-619.

Raelin, Joseph A. “The end of managerial control?.” Group & Organization Management (2010):  

Mandell, Joyce. “Advice to action research activists: Negotiating successful action research-community based social change partnerships.” Humanity & Society 34.2 (2010): 141-156.

Mandell, Joyce. “CDCs and the Myth of the Organizing-Development Dialectic.” Madison, WI: COMM-ORG: The On-Line Conference on Community Organizing. Vol. 15. 2009.

Phongphom, Artittaya, and Soparth Pongquan. “Farmers’ network development in Northeast Thailand: a case study of Thai Bru in Mukdahan Province.” Asia-Pacific Journal of Rural Development 18.1 (2008): 103-122.

McGonagill, Grady, and Claire Reinelt. “Leadership development in the social sector: a framework for supporting strategic investments.” The Foundation Review 2.4 (2011): 6.

Evans, Scotney D., et al. “Miami Thrives: Weaving a poverty reduction coalition.” American journal of community psychology 53.3-4 (2014): 357-368.

Nascimbeni, Fabio. “Collaborative Knowledge Creation in Development Networks: Lessons Learned from a Transnational Programme.” The Journal of Community Informatics 9.3 (2013).

Malby, Rebecca, Kieran Mervyn, and Luca Pirisi. “How professionals can lead networks in the NHS.” International Journal of Leadership in Public Services, The 9.1/2 (2013): 47-58.

Dershem, L., et al. “NGO Network Analysis Handbook: how to measure and map linkages between NGOs. Save the Children. Tbilisi, Georgia.” NGO Network Analysis Handbook–Save the Children 3 (2011): 3.

Malby, Becky, and Kieran Mervyn. “Centre for Innovation in Health Management University of Leeds.” (2011).

Townsend, Maya. “Finding Value.” OD PRACTITIONER 45.2 (2013).

Townsend, Maya. “Organization Network Dynamics and Analysis.” The NTL Handbook of Organization Development and Change (2014): 581-604.

Nascimbeni, Fabio. “Networking for development: a network analysis of a development programme between Europe and Latin America.” (2012).

Malby, Becky, and Kieran Mervyn. “An Additional Brief Literature Review for The Health Foundation May 2012.”

Gaillard, Estelle. Learning for Change in a Changing Climate: A Community-based Education Perspective. Griffith University, 2012.

Network Power for Philanthropy and Nonprofits
Lowell, Stephanie. “BARR FOUNDATION.” (2006).

Peleg-Hadomi, Liron. “Collaborations, Partnerships, Networks. Introduction: From the Personal to the Professional. Interorganizational Partnerships and Networks.” New England Journal of Public Policy 23.1 (2010): 15. 

Frusciante, Angela. “Shifting From ‘Evaluation’to Valuing: A Six-Year Example of Philanthropic Practice Change and Knowledge Development.” The Foundation Review 6.2 (2014): 10.

Jaumont, Fabrice. Strategic philanthropy, organizational legitimacy, and the development of higher education in Africa: The partnership for higher education in Africa (2000-2010). Diss. New York University, 2014.

Cordero, Antonia Elizabeth, and Lirio K. Negroni. “Leadership Development for Latino Community Emancipation: An Integrative Approach in Social Work Education.” Advances in Social Work 14.1 (2013): 102-124.

Lawrence Community Works: Using the Power of Networks to Restore a City
Meehan, Deborah, Natalia Castañeda, and Anis Salvesen. “The role of leadership in place based initiatives.” California Endowment by the Leadership Learning Community (2011).

Borges-Mendez, Ramon, et al. “Latino business owners in East Boston.” (2006).  University of Massachusetts Boston John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Affairs Mauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy

Martin, Danielle Marie. Participatory media and collaborative facilitation: developing tools for aligning values to practice in organizations. Diss. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009.

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Network Impact in the News

A few recent articles that reference the work of Network Impact.

A Network Way of Working – A Compilation of Considerations about the Effectiveness of Networks Fall/Winter 2013 issue of the NonProfit Quarterly
Networks aren’t new, but the role they play in our working lives is expanding significantly through technology. The potential for impact is great, but newly enhanced networks require new strategies.

The Encore Fellowships Network – Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2013

In just two years, the Encore Fellowships Network—which enables professionals to transition from private sector careers into high-impact roles in the nonprofit sector—used a network-scaling model to grow from a single pilot program in Silicon Valley to a network of 200 organizations operating in 20 metropolitan areas nationwide.

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Community Information Projects from Ideas to Impact

With support from the Knight Foundation through the Knight Community Information Challenge, community foundation leaders and their partners around the country are working to create more robust local information “ecosystems.” It was our privilege to get into the field to see what each of the four community foundations featured in the case studies is doing to promote information healthy communities.

Our eye for ethnographic detail helped to surface some of the real-life stories at the center of these efforts. Here is incontrovertible evidence that accessible, reliable and relevant news and information can enhance civic life and spark community change. Of course, we were particularly alert to the network building dimension in all of this. In addition to the local specifics about news and information, the cases also detail some basic network strategies that are relevant to any social change effort: how to create connections that open information pathways so that people can align and act. Which case most closely maps the challenges you face in your social change work? Any insights here that you might take forward?

The case studies: How four community information projects went from idea to impact can be found here and Knight’s blog post about the work here.

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Network Evaluation: Framing An Assessment Plan

When you’re evaluating a network, what are you looking for?

We recently submitted an evaluation proposal for a 7-year old network with more than 120 organizations spread across more than a half-dozen states. Without knowing much about the network we had to describe what we’d be evaluating, our analytic framework. It had 12 components, many of them specifically about a network, rather than an organization. It’s a framework we’d apply for assessing the condition and performance of any network.

Purpose: What is the network’s purpose? Is it being fulfilled? Has it changed over time? What other purposes are emergent among network members?

Value Propositions: What are the reasons that members participate in the network? Which reasons are most important to the members? How well do members feel their value propositions are being fulfilled by participating in the network?

Membership & Engagement: Who has been attracted to the network and who hasn’t that it would be desirable to have? What are the types of engagement in the network and to what degree do members engage in the network? Are the network’s rules/incentives for member engagement effective? Are there barriers that prevent/reduce member engagement?

Network Connectivity: What are the relationships among members? What level of reciprocity and trust has been built? What is being transacted between members? How has member connectivity evolved over time? What is the connectivity “shape” of the network (different patterns of connectivity—e.g., super hubs; multiple hubs; clusters) and how does the shape enable or block network efficiency and effectiveness?

Network Alignment: How well are network members aligned around ideas, goals, strategies, standards, and other guideposts? To what extent does alignment in the network influence members’ actions?

Network Production: To what extent has the network’s connectivity and alignment created conditions for collaboration/co-production by network members of, for instance, usable knowledge, policy change, services, or innovations. How well do network production processes function?

Other Network Capabilities: Which other network capabilities (e.g., network reach and resilience) matter to the network’s health—and what is their condition?

Governance: Does the network’s structure for decision-making enable members? Is it efficient and effective? Does it promote member confidence in and loyalty toward the network? What are the network’s monitoring and feedback loops and how well are they being used? What is the network’s resonance to members’ interests/actions? What is its adaptive capacity?

Business Model: What is the value chain within the markets and other contexts within which the network operates? What products and services—value creation– does the network offer? What is the network’s business model—revenues and costs—and how will it be sustained?

Operations: How well does the network enable members to benefit from the network through coordination of and communications among members, access to shared resources, working group leadership, and peer-to-peer exchange and learning? What staffing, mechanisms, and resources are in place? Which members do/don’t use them?

Strategic Communications: How is the network positioned with external audiences/stakeholders to achieve its goals? In what ways can the network’s external connections, capacities, and brand be leveraged for greater impact or to attract more resources?

Impacts: What measurable impact is the network having in achieving its purpose and goals? What impact is participating in the network having on the way members think and act? How can the network effectively measure its impact on a continuing basis—and use the information for improving its performance?

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Network Tool: Network Health Scorecard


Regular check ups can help network builders track progress and decide what the network needs next. The Network Health Scorecard provides a quick series of questions that can yield a useful assessment of the health of your network - diagnosing strengths and areas for growth.

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