Network Formation, Development, Resilience and Sustainability, Demise, and Transformation

This chapter covers the evolution of networks, including formation, development, resilience, sustainability, demise, and transformation. It first addresses the driving factors in the success of network formation and then discusses how networks develop. It further illustrates what network resilience and sustainability mean and how networks may dissolve or transform into a different organizational format using learning opportunities from failed networks. The chapter provides information about the network evolution process and concludes with management and policy implications.

As highlighted in the earlier chapters of the book, networks are increasingly used to address complex social and policy problems. We do not know much about the life cycle of networks. Still, forming, designing, developing, and sustaining network arrangements remain a salient task for public managers. We live in a world of shared power and many groups and organizations are either involved in or affected by public problems.

In this chapter, we examine the following research questions:

  • • What are the key drivers, as well as success factors, of network formation and development?
  • • What are the core elements of network resilience and sustainability?
  • • What are some of the design principles in networks? What is(are) the appropriate role(s) for state actors and other participants (communities, nonprofits, and private sector)?
  • • Are the network relationships kept solely informal or formalized so that they are sustainable over time?

Factors of Success for Network Design and Formation

Networks can be designed or can emerge without any deliberate planning. We will first introduce the elements of designing an interorganizational network, then we discuss other drivers for network formation and success factors for effectiveness. Upon establishing the need to engage in a network arrangement, public managers must determine how to best design the network (Agranoff & McGuire, 2003; Goldsmith & Eggers, 2004; Popp,

MacKean, Casebeer, Milward, & Lindstrom, 2014). One of the tasks associated with designing a network is identifying what organizations and groups should join the network. Johnston, Hicks, Nan, & Auer (2011) argued that identifying which groups to include and the timing of their inclusion in the collaboration process pose a major challenge. Including too many stakeholders too quickly can cause difficulty in building trust and developing shared goals. On the other hand, if the inclusion process occurs too slowly, resources can become stretched thin and momentum may decline (Johnston et al„ 2011).

Network Formation

The creation of the network. In this phase of the network’s life- cycle, the mission and level of formality is decided.

Table 4.1 highlights the core elements of network design and formation. Based on a real need or agreed upon problem, identifying core actors for the network is crucial. Engaging in a deliberative planning process minimizes the chances of new participants destabilizing the collaborative process. Thoughtful inclusion of stakeholders and a deliberative planning process are important steps in designing collaborations, and if managed effectively, can reinforce tmst, relationship building, commitment, and communication (Johnston et ah, 2011). Once network participants are identified, public managers must work with them to develop shared purpose; consider tasks; identify "boundary spanning leaders” (i.e., the individuals that can help the collaboration; and establish collaborative structures and processes (Bryson, Crosby, & Stone, 2015).

Table 4.1 Key Elements of Network Design and Formation

Identifying core network participants

Institutional and environmental factors

  • • Thoughtful stakeholder inclusion
  • • Deliberative planning process
  • • Deliberative needs assessment
  • • Collective resources identification
  • • Resource constraints
  • • Decision-making frameworks
  • • Sectoral failures
  • • Formal mandates
  • • High costs, high risks

Develop shared purpose

Drivers and Motives

  • • Network strategic planning
  • • Determine goals, activities, and tasks
  • • Task-oriented design, core tasks and responsible organizations
  • • General agreement on the problem
  • • Interdependency
  • • Prior network experience
  • • Power dynamics among stakeholders
  • • Vested interest in the issue or social problem

Identify “boundary spanning leaders”

Approaches for partners selection

Relational analytics

  • • Who knows what
  • • Who knows whom
  • • Who has what resources
  • • Bottom-up or top-down
  • • Informal or formal
  • • Ego-driven, alter-driven, non-extant networks, failed networking

Deliberate design is not the only option for network formation. Networks sometime originate from failures and turbulent environments such as disasters, crises, and economic hardship (Bryson & Crosby, 2008; Bryson. Crosby, & Stone, 2006; Kapucu & Garayev, 2012). Collaboration often emerges when one sector fails to deliver public value to specific communities due to the weaknesses of that sector. This failure then triggers the need to seek other sectors or organizations that have special strengths and that can better address societal issues and problems. Moreover, for collaborations to be effective, they must minimize one another's weaknesses while drawing on one another's strengths (Bryson & Crosby, 2008).

There are a variety of institutional and environmental factors that result in organizations pursuing a collaboration. Such factors include, but are not limited to, resource constraints, legal mandates and decision-making frameworks, and sector failure (Bryson et al., 2015). Organizations may have different motives for building networks such as obtaining additional resources, generating better outcomes, or contributing to public value (Donahue & Zeckhauser, 2011). When organizations are faced with complex problems that can threaten their viability, the best alternative solution is to form networks with other organizations to create public value (Bryson et al., 2006).

For a network to form, potential collaborative partners must recognize their interdependence and perceive that they play a strategic role in addressing the problem at hand (Bryson et al., 2015; Powell, 1992). Another salient driver is prior relationships, or past collaborative experience, as it is through these previous engagements that network partners judge the trustworthiness and legitimacy of other partners. Both former and existing relationships are some of the most frequently identified factors influencing the formation of networks (Evans, Rosen, Kesten, & Moore, 2014). Similarly, Gulati and Gargiulo’s (1999) analysis of interorganizational alliances in a sample of American, European, and Japanese businesses revealed that the likelihood of joining new alliances between organizations increases with their interdependence, prior mutual alliances, common third parties, and joint centrality.

Most of the successful network collaborations are bottom-up rather than top-down (Ingraham & Getha-Taylor, 2008). This perspective agrees with Bryson and Crosby (2008) as well as Vangen and Huxham (2003) that successful collaborations take time, require trust and relationship building, and must consider environmental factors. Motivation for partners, especially nonprofit organizations with limited resources and specific missions, comes from a desire to secure whatever resources are most scarce. This leaves nonprofit managers motivated by financial resources to a much greater extent than public managers, who in turn are more interested in accessing private sector skills and expertise (Gazley, 2008).

Selection and mobilization of members of a network are critical success factors. Ryu (2014) developed four scenarios of network partner selection: ego-driveu networking, alter-driven networking, failed networking, and non-extant networking. These four scenarios are developed on the bases of intention to network design and formation (Ryu, 2014). During ego-driven networking, the ego, which is the core partner, “assess itself as attractive networking partner for that candidate and attempts to activate networking with that candidate” (p. 637). Conversely, the alter-driven networking the ego does not perceive itself as attractive and does not attempt to activate networking with the other candidate (called alter), but the alter finds benefits and activate the network by contacting the ego. Failed networking occurs when the "candidate does not find any benefit in networking with the ego” (Ryu, 2014, p. 638) and in a lack of mutual agreement the network is not activated (Ryu, 2014). Lastly in the non-extant networking the networking is also not activated the ego is not perceived as attractive by itself and the candidate and therefore, there is no exchange. Alter driven networking and ego driven networking have the greatest success in forming networks (Ryu, 2014). The network design and formation phase can be considered as creation of the network phase. As the network’s lifecycle, the mission and level of formality is decided in this phase, some opportunities can be discovered for network development as well.

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