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Checklist: Am I clear on my intention for getting involved in a network?

There is no simple algorithm for deciding if engaging with a social impact network is the right move for you to make. Rather, there are a set of basic questions to help you in that decision making process.

Do you know what a network can help you achieve?

1. Can you tell if the challenge you’re trying to solve is a good fit for using a network?

The problem you are trying to solve…

  • Has no single root cause and is connected to (or a symptom of) other problems
  • Is emergent and shifting, defying silver-bullet solutions
  • Could not be solved by any single organization, and lacks a clear or widely-agreed definition among the actors who could address it
  • Cuts across the domains in which the actors typically work (e.g., governmental jurisdiction, issue focus, or industry sector)

And any progress towards a solution will require…

  • The involvement of many actors, especially if they are from different sectors
  • More resources or capacity than any one actor could provide
  • A portfolio of interventions that work on many levers of change to address deep rooted causes
  • Working beyond the scope of any of the relevant actors—such as changing policies, structures, or other elements of the social system that surrounds them

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2. Can you picture what network design would be most useful?

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3. Do you have a clear understanding of what a network could help you accomplish–and have you identified the specific functions that you need this network to perform?

Do you need a network to…

  • Spur individual action
  • Weave social ties
  • Access new and diverse perspectives
  • Facilitate information exchange and peer learning
  • Create shared understanding in order to align action
  • Design and prototype new solutions
  • Launch a series of joint initiatives

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Do you know what you can do for a network?

4. Can you tell what general “type” of funding relationship you see yourself having with this network?

Are you the…

  • Personally-Engaged Funder
  • Roll-Up-the-Sleeves Funder
  • Full-Spectrum Funder

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5. Do you know the network’s current stage of development?


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6. Do you know what forms of support you will provide?

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7. Are you and your organization both ready to adopt the mindset you need to do this work?

Can you…

  • Find the common ground where your goals and the network’s goals intersect
  • Be patient with the process and time required to support a community that can then work together to create impact
  • Experiment and take risks with new ideas that spring from the collective
  • Contribute as a collaborator and mitigate power dynamics

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8. Have you considered alternative forms of organizing to be sure that a network is the right approach?

Instead of a network, could you…

  • Support a single individual / organization
  • Create a new organization
  • Gather a group
  • Support a different kind of partnership

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Are you ready to get started?

9. Do you know how to gauge the potential for starting or joining a network?

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10. Do you know what tools you can use to support and lead a network?

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