Networking is a term that is difficult to define. Although it means different things to different people, in general, networking can be thought of as two or more people working together to achieve individual and group goals that would be more difficult to obtain individually. In general, networking is cooperating to compete.
Basic types of networks
There three basic types of networks are:
- Information (members sharing information of mutual interest)
- production networks (members collaborating on the delivery of common outputs)
- marketing (members disseminating information on their own outputs and activities)
They each meet the definition of a network and require a commitment from their members, but they involve different objectives, degrees of financial involvement, and levels of formality. From the viewpoint of working relationships and interactions among institutions and individuals, the resulting synergies are much higher according to Metcalf's law, which states that the "value" or "power" of a network increases in proportion to the square of the number of nodes on the network. Evaluating networks before weighing the benefits and limitations of joining a network, the potential member should research the particular network, then evaluate the network on its own merit.
A few key questions to ask include:
What are the mission and objectives of the network?
Who are the members of the network?
Do all members have the same objectives?
Who is the leader or champion?
Does the network fit my mission and goals?
Will it enhance the production and delivery of my organization's outputs?
Will it help to market my organization's outputs to new user communities?
Is the network positioned to evolve?
What is the complete impact on my organization's operation?
Benefits of networking
All of the benefits attributed to partnerships are also relevant to networking. Below are some of the major benefits from networking:
- Better sharing of information and communications technologies
- Increased synergies "added value"
- New insights/perspectives
- Shared workload & responsibilities
- Cost reduction & sharing
- Increased resource base
- Increased legitimacy and credibility - greater impact
- Spreading of risk
- Better delivery of outputs (projects, programmes)
- Increased dissemination of information
- Increased visibility among clients (better marketing)
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