Symposium: Networks as Interventions: Policy Tool or Panacea?
The 2015 symposium will explore if and/or how inter-organizational networks can help address critical policy issues and practice challenges. Specifically, can networks be used successfully as deliberate tools or interventions to create better public policy, services and practice; or are they simply so ubiquitous that they have become the universal remedy, effective or not, for any wicked problem?
Networks and similar collaborative structures have been used by governments as interventions to deal with many of the most complex problems, often in uncertain environments, such as health services reform, climate change adaptation and mitigation, disaster response, and terrorism. Networks are used for many purposes, including supporting learning, leveraging organizational growth, building community capacity, encouraging cross sector planning or service delivery, sustaining connections during times of change, and supporting quality improvement. Symposium participants will delve deeper into the dilemmas faced, and the quandaries and benefits arising, when networks are created as public sector policy tools (e.g. used by governments to support practice innovations or to solve difficult problems).
The symposium objectives are to:
- Explore how networks can function as interventions
- Identify the characteristics of highly functioning networks
- Share recent network development, research and practice innovations
- Assess the value-add of networks as a policy tool
- Share the lessons and realities of case studies from different sectors, venues and locations
The symposium will embrace an interactive, inquiry-based approach – encouraging open discussion and debate throughout – and engaging interaction among all of the participants. The intent of the Networks Leadership Symposium is not only to create generative learning experiences on the day, but to also capture and share that learning going forward. A diverse legacy of outputs has resulted from the previous symposia, not the least of which is ongoing collaborations among network researchers and practitioners interested in jointly advancing understanding of networks.
A series of reports resulting from previous symposia constitute the beginnings of a ‘Networks Toolkit’ and are available to, and being used by, those involved in network implementation, innovation and evaluation. Most recently an IBM Report Inter-Organizational Networks: A Review of the Literature to Inform Practice (2014) was authored by a group of symposium participants and demonstrates the requisite conditions and benefits that can emerge from sustained collaborative efforts (http://www.businessofgovernment.org/report/inter-organizational-networks-review-literature-inform-practice).