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As it becomes more organized and execution-oriented, a network may need some degree of formal governance to make important choices. This often takes the form of a small body of key network stakeholders, such as a steering committee or board of directors. A little governance goes a long way, particularly in the early stages. While it is common for some participants to push for formal decision-making structures early, it is counterproductive to put them in place before the group has established its common ground and shared activities. And once formal structure is adopted, it is crucial to the network’s health that the people playing this role are willing to use their decision rights in service of the group and reflecting its input rather than only being guided by their own point of view.
To play or not to play: Serving on a steering committee or board tends to be a good way for funders to engage in a network while giving it enough distance to build its independence. A common pattern is for network funders to play a major role in engineering the network in its early stages and then step back into a less active role (such as a steering committee position) once the network is into the Organize or Grow stages of development.