Network Evaluation: Monitoring the Dynamic Evolution

Second in a series about monitoring and assessing network practice.

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to network adaptation – and, from an evaluative perspective, how best to capture the trajectory of networks with multiple, emergent activities and connections. In open and rapidly evolving nets, of course, members often need real-time information to make effective decisions. But, even in relatively stable nets, organizers want to know about the results of their catalyzing efforts. So many networks begin with a deliberate effort to weave new connections, but few build in the means to systematically gauge the effect of such efforts over time.

Pete Plastrik and I continue to be interested in learning more about how to monitor patterns of network engagement and action in networks whose members use 2.0 digital media to connect and communicate. BTW we have learned a lot about this by following some of the conversations that Beth Kanter hosts on her blog. In other networks with known membership, we’ve had some success combining qualitative methods (e.g. interviews and member journaling) with member surveys.

Truth to tell, all-member surveys that we’ve developed took a lot of time to design.  But most have been “baseline” surveys that cover a lot of ground in order to catch up on the network’s evolution. Such surveys can be followed up with shorter surveys to a subset of members (say, 20% per year).  I recently learned that this has been the approach of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation in tracking their network of more than 400 fellows.

Have you designed a network survey? What kinds of questions did you include? What did you learn that was useful? Post a comment here.

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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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