This guide by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations and the Monitor Institute was co-created by an inspiring group of 80 network practitioners. It is written for grantmakers who are just beginning to explore and experiment with networks and for those who are further along and want to reflect on their practice. Next to grantmakers, the guide is also useful to social change makers working with a network approach.
Throughout history, social change has been possible only through the contributions and dedication of many people and organizations connected in tight and loose groups. Developments such as the 911 emergency response system, widespread access to immunizations in poor countries or the civil rights movement in the United States couldn’t have happened through solitary or isolated leadership. Rather, citizens, philanthropists and groups of all kinds were linking actions through constantly changing constellations of relationships.
Today, the complexity and scale of many social and environmental problems are growing. At the same time, there is more opportunity for social change makers to engage and connect with web technologies. But new technologies are creating new pressures as well — such as the need for greater transparency, speed and distributed decision making.
There is a growing imperative for funders to combine longstanding instincts toward independent initiative and action with an emerging network mindset and toolkit that helps them see their work as part of larger, more diverse and more powerful efforts.But it’s hard to know where to start. Regardless of where you put your stake, you’ll be dealing with complex, dynamic problems that no one actor can make progress on alone, regardless of its size and influence.
These new tools and knowledge are amplifying the ways in which networks can help with complex social problem solving. As a result, funders and activists are experimenting with innovative approaches to scaling impact, and creating a new network-centric ecology of social problem solving in the process.
Grantmakers and social change makers are harnessing the power of networks to achieve positive social benefits in five key ways: weaving social ties, accessing new and diverse perspectives, openly building and sharing knowledge, creating infrastructure for widespread engagement and coordinating resources and action. This guide will help navigate the approaches, tools, and possibilities for networks to achieve impact by harnessing the power of a network approach.