Networks build communities, energising and connecting individuals

Spread and adopter - networksSpread is a social process, dependent on both social and technical aspects of change, so increased connectivity leads to increased change and spread which is why networks are so important.

Networks enable connections and relationships between individuals – increasing communication, interaction and collaboration and the flow of knowledge and learning as well as development of communities. See learning principle for more information.

A broad range of networks, and communities of practice exist – formal / informal, professional/topic/social focused, local/national / international, face to face /virtual, all of which can offer different opportunities.

Networks are important not just in the generation of an innovation but also in the acceptance, adoption and adaptation of the innovation in practice.

Understand which networks, and communities of practice, may be of help in spreading and adopting the innovation, as well as providing mutual support.

To maximise these networks, identify and connect with individuals who have key roles in them e.g. brokers, central-connectors, energisers. See learning and connecting across systems in further resources for more information.

Create a Pull for the innovation by sharing the benefit of the innovation, generating motivation and enabling participation to build a crowd or community to provide the energy for spread and adoption and to build and maintain momentum.

Harness the energy especially the social, psychological, spiritual energies for change that networks can generate.

Recognise how networks can enable local agency and support new power activities by building energy and momentum, particularly via social media (HL to Twitter blogs) and support their use eg platforms like WhatsApp, Slack and social media eg Twitter and Facebook groups, to enable large scale spread.

Technology and social media enable connectivity across many systems and networks building strong links and loose links and a spectrum of allies (people to both support and constructively challenge), which are important in the spread and adoption of innovation.

Support the development of networks and encourage networks to connect with other local or national networks e.g. Q community, School for Change Agents, connecting across systems and organisations.

Encourage membership of networks and communities of adopters and the connection of these networks with similar local / national networks including professional or special interest networks.

A movement can grow and gain support from many small-group networks.

More details on Networks in the leading and connecting across systems in further resources.

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Applying this principle to practice

Consider these questions which will be of varying relevance depending on your context.

  • What existing networks can you work with or connect to?
  • Who does / can play key roles in the networks?
  • Who is currently in your network? To enable spread and adoption who needs to be in your network? How will you fill any gaps?
  • How can you harness the energy and agency generated by networks?
  • How can you support network building mechanisms e.g. platforms, groups, social media?
  • How can you encourage membership of a network?
  • What opportunity is there to connect existing relevant networks?
  • How can you support development of a network?

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You may find the following helpful, also see practical tools and methods, further resources and systems convening

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Read the glossary

This guidance is primarily offered to support system leaders. Please send all feedback here.