16 Nov. Webinar: Network Lifecycle & Approaches to Network Metrics/Evaluation


Think about a network you are assessing (or will need to):
  • Reflect on where the network is at in its lifecycle.

Name:Warren Cook
Network:Maine Network Partners-Non Profit Effectiveness Program-so called Viability Clinic/s
Lifecycle stage: MNP helped form the program/clinics by bringing funders, ta people, 3 united ways together to put together sector clinics for building capacity in non profits(vs one on one org approach)-have held about 8 and 4 are scheduled for 2011. The clinics have worked well, have been funded by a group of funders who were attracted to it as it was a tangible product they could invest in that could help a sector that they were interested in. We did do an evaluation using Claire Reinholt, who has a good understanding of networks and was somewhat a part of the clinical development which we felt was important. The network is now at the point of outsourcing the implementation to two capacity building organizations with oversite by the network. The network will now focus on new products/areas where we feel this collaborative/systemic approach will be beneficial, which given our trust and ability to work together should be promising.
Priority measures of network health: Diane's list of measures is part of our list as well especially trust/cohesion, I would add "how aware are the network partners are of the work they are accomplishing as a network and how it would be different if they were working alone", also how clear is the shared vision and the roles that each mbr is playing-perhpas that is degrees of connectivity-since our network is a production or product network the results of the individual clinics as well as our decision to outsource the implementation are two important measures of health. The defined role of the network members has been an important part of our process. The effectiveness of the weaver/facilitator/coach is a key measure for us to the point that MNP is now designing a peer learning curriculum to strengthen this critical ingredient to our network/s. We have had some good network development in Maine-30+ but we are concerned that the weaver/facilitator/coaching role is there to support the increased interest. We have concluded that while the TA community and other experts can help, this critical role needs to be developed within and be part of the network.

Name: Diana Scearce and Kelly Spann
Network: Network of Network Funders
Lifecycle stage: Overall, I'd say we're at the 'growing the network' stage. We're growing participation, building the platforms that will (we hope!) decentralize network functions over time, and pursuing multiple strategies towards achieving our purposes (weaving community and building/ sharing knowledge). At the same time, there are elements of what I've been doing in recent months that feel more like 'knitting the network' as we work to connect in new participants. This makes me realize that the lifecycle is additive. As the network moves into the next stage it contiues to do some of the same work (e.g. continuously developing a new and better understanding of the surrounding ecosystem, continuously knitting the network).
Priority Measures of Network Health: We couldn’t stick to just 5… Here are a few that struck us as most important to our current priorities: structure and governance, member capacity development, communication quality and practice, participation. And, here are few that we should have on our radar screen, which will rise in importance this coming spring/summer: core/periphery, cohesion, changes in knowledge base, value added.

Name: Gale Berkowitz/Packard Foundation
Network: I am going to start a new one: Network of Network Evaluators Specializing in Evaluations with/for foundations!
Lifecycle stage: Somewhere overlapping knowing/knitting/organizing the network. It is possible that this network already exists, and that as foundations we are newcomers to a practice that has been around for ages. (This wouldn't be the first time philanthropy has lagged in some important practice of effectiveness. At the recent American Evaluation Association conference, Tom Kelly, Mayur Patel, Astrid Hendricks and I hosted a Think Tank of Evaluating Networks. It was great to see and hear new faces and voices, not of philanthropy, but of evaluation directly. Many of the coolest examples came from participants who were engaged with networks internationally. I find this curious as when I first started looking into network metrics at the beginning of our engagement with TMI, I was navigated to an entity called Global Action Networks (GAN-net). These folks were perceived to be leading the practice on evaluating networks. (BTW, iScale and GAN-net are related.) Either we have been going around in circles or we were hitting the center of the target almost 3 years ago!