Cracking the Network Code

Cracking the Network Code: Four Principles for Grantmakers


The authors share research into the mindset shifts necessary to be an effective network participant and offer practical recommendations for how grantmakers can support networks.

We know that we need a different mindset to tackle complex, systemic challenges. The non-profit sector has been experimenting with new ways to solve intractable problems. These approaches include coalition and community building, collaboration, collective impact and networks. They have risen as waves of experimentation that are gradually yielding success. The leaders in these actions are gradually figuring it out.

They are working together so that hard-won gains take root. These leaders succeed by adopting a “network mindset” that enables profound change. This publication sets out to crack the code behind that mindset, empowering grantmakers and other leaders to succeed at building networks for social change. Typically, the leaders who get involved in networks did not set out to create a network. They set out to solve a problem that other attempts had failed to solve.

In the words of one grantmaker, “Even though every year our spending was increasing, we became convinced that grantmaking organization by organization was not making real change.

This particular foundation was driven toward transformative change, and it set about to make that happen by fostering several state-wide networks to tackle a range of issues. Others interviewed described the alchemy that occurs when passion for change mixes with total frustration with the status quo. The network mindset ensues as a sort of chemical reaction. Frustration and vision push leaders toward an approach that is more likely to deliver results at the massive scale they seek.

Below are four grantmaker mindsets discussed in detail within this article:

  • Mission, Not Organization
  • Trust, Not Control
  • Humility, not Brand
  • Node, not Hub