What do you mean by “networks” or a “network structure”?
Why are network structures important in system change?
A network could also be known as a coalition, alliance, collective impact, or collaboration.
We appreciate the way the authors of Connecting to Change the World describe generative social impact networks:
Most simply, a generative social impact network is a set of people who voluntarily organize themselves for collective action to solve a large, complex social problem.
In these networks, decision making is distributed throughout the membership. The members set the agenda and priorities…Most important, members are deliberate about building, strengthening, and maintaining ties with each other; over time they forge a renewable collaborative capacity that generates numerous activities simultaneously.
Together, they innovate to create new products, services, and programs; learn which practices work, then adopt and spread them; advocate for changes in public policies; provide services, as well as education and training; set up joint purchasing and branding; and organize the use of private, philanthropic, and public investment. Over the years, their networks become robust and adaptive enough to maintain their effectiveness and steadily increase their impact.
The textbooks say that a network is a set of “nodes” connected by “links.” This could describe an electricity grid, a highway system between cities, living cells that form tissue, or the neurons in your brain. In a social network, the nodes are people and the links are relationships.
Most organizations have branching structures. Whereas networks have multi-directional paths of connection, the branching structures in our organizations tend to create silos and restrict information flow across branches.
Social impact networks are designed for complexity, healing, regeneration, well-being, equity, and future generations. Networks can include individuals, organizations, ad hoc groups, governmental organizations, for-profit businesses, and nonprofits.
Network structures are important in system change because they recognize that all of the parts are connected pieces of the whole. Once organizations are connected in a network structure, they can provide needs throughout the network and governance with widespread consent.