While networks can be a highly effective way to engage issues of scale or complexity, they are not the answer for every issue. Below are ten questions to consider before forming a network or partnership.
- Is the identified problem beyond the capacity of any one organization?
- Is this a problem or issue where the stakes are high?
- Is the issue complex?
- Have other traditional methods already been tried?
- Is it likely that a common aim could be identified and agreed to?
- Do the organizations involved have similar cultures and values?
- Is there enough diversity among potential participants to provide multiple perspectives on the problem?
- Is there a history of trusting relationships among the organizations that would comprise the network? If not, is there enough time to develop them before tangible outcomes are expected?
- Will you have the necessary resources to develop and implement a network?
- Is the issue one that will require long-term collaboration?
Adapted from: Bryson et al., 2006; Holley, 2012; Huxham & Vangen, 2005; Keast et al., 2004; McGuire, 2006; Provan & Lemaire, 2012; Raab & Milward, 2003
Note: A negative response to any of these questions does not necessarily mean that forming an inter-organizational network is a bad idea. Rather, they are outlined here to support careful consideration about when a network might be the most appropriate organizational form