The challenges that the world faces today, from climate change to highly unequal economic and social structures cannot be solved by one organisation, government or institution alone. We need to collaborate to share learnings, scale innovations and build our collective capacity to bring about social impact.
The social change networks playbook is the product of a participatory learning journey that we as a group of network practitioners, funders and researchers went on together. Together, we made sense of some of the key questions, challenges and opportunities of impact networks, as well as good practices in facilitating and funding networks. This playbook is our humble contribution to share the learnings that emerged from our journey and support fellow practitioners and funders who develop networks for social impact.
We see these networks as groups of individuals and organizations that harness their connections and relationships towards a shared purpose, to learn together and collaborate to achieve a positive impact on a complex societal or ecological challenge.
There is a rich and growing body of both lived experience and research showing that collaboration through networks can enable learning, cultivate awareness, pool resources and widen access to opportunities. Impact networks can be critical to bringing about systems change across sectors, whether this is in education, youth development, gender equality or philanthropy. However, there are still many questions about how networks can become more thriving, adaptable and resilient:
- How do we most effectively take networks from talk to action?
- How do we convey the value of networks?
- How can we better democratise access to networks?
- What are good practices to build networks?
- How can networks drive systems change?
- How do we know when networks are working?
Through this playbook, we begin to share ideas and frameworks to start addressing some of these questions. The playbook is:
- A Practical Guide that is recognizable, useful and immediately applicable.
- A Curated Overview of resources and methods to support deeper learning.
- An Honest Invitation to experiment with collaboration and alignment.
In each chapter we invite you to use the resources and findings we share to reflect, learn and build strong networks in your contexts We acknowledge that we merely scratch the surface of these questions in this playbook. The more we learned throughout our journey, the more questions arose. We, therefore, invite you to also engage deeply with the reflective questions and additional resources.
Here is an overview on the chapters on different puzzle pieces that are important to consider when developing social change networks:
And, here is what other network weavers, facilitators and capacity builders said:
“The playbook is a valuable resource for network leaders and practitioners. Anyone working to create change through collaboration will be well served by reflecting on the questions and exploring the wealth of resources contained within. ” – David Ehrlichman
“Helpful and practical! This playbook is a great reference for practitioners or anyone who wants to learn how to better understand networks for impact and how to develop them. Anyone working with and “developing social impact networks should have this by their side!” – Kerry Lea Forrester, Lecturer on networks at Tilburg University
“Insightful and reflective of the dynamism of impact networks, the playbook offers clear and accessible guidance for network practitioners and funders alike, using a rich variety of real-world examples and resources. Recommended for stakeholders at any stage of their impact network evolution.” – Gwen Beeman – Small Foundation
We hope you will find it as useful in your own work to co-create thriving networks. It is our collective intention and sincere hope that this playbook contributes to our collective ability to realize a more flourishing world for all.
The network learning journey cohort, InHive & the project team.