Many networks (and especially funders of networks) dive into the process of generating network maps without much thought about how they will be used. The resulting maps too often end up never being seen or used by network participants. It’s really a shame as network maps are extremely powerful tools that can be used to weave very healthy and effective networks. However, network mapping needs to be combined with a strategy for engaging network participants in interpreting the maps and then developing strategies for connecting people in the network and drawing in new participants.
This slide deck is about a network – the Innovation Learning Network (a network of hospital systems across the U.S.) – that implemented a highly effective strategy to use their maps
Several aspects of their strategy that are worth emulating
1. The network had hired two network weavers but those network weavers did not take on the mapping and weaving job alone. They recruited about 25 network participants who were interested in learning more about network weaving to implement their weaving strategy
2. The entire group spent time reading and analyzing the network maps and then, based on that analysis, generating a set of activities that would help the network become a healthy and effective self-organizing network
3. In addition to the network weavers connecting people, they set up a set of network activities that would enable network participants to get to know more people in the network, add new people to the network, and help people find others interested in the same topic or action areas
4. They found that the most powerful strategy for improving their network was to support self-organizing: helping people find others interested in a particular exploration or action not only resulted in people in that project getting to know each other quite deeply but also showed them the power of self-organizing. As a result, many many new initiatives were generated over the years that took little staff time to coordinate and yet changed the face of the healthcare industry
5. ILN remapped their network several times to notice progress and to see areas where they needed to focus their network weaving
6. They gathered information about the effectiveness of this network enhancing strategy
What questions do you have about this strategy? How might you adopt and adapt the ideas presented in this case study. Feel free to share this slide deck with your local network or your funders.
Finally, I’d love to hear about ways that you used your network maps. Please share with us in the comments section below.