Networks’ Demise and Transformation

Networks demise and transformation are not widely addressed in the litera- mre. Networks are usually formed in response to a complex public policy or social problems. If the nature of the problem changes or the needs of the network change, what is the next step? A network's life cycle might be different and probably shorter than that of the members of the organization in the network. If there is no need, the network can be dissolved or transformed to something different. The demise of a network and/or transformation of it is different from network failure. Unfortunately, there is no substantial research in addressing both network demise and failure. We believe that we can learn substantially from failed or transformed networks as we learn from the successful ones.

Many reasons can lead to the demise or transformation of a network: The network may have produced its maximum value, solved the issue that caused the network to form, the network might need to reconsider its added value or external legitimacy, or may not be resilience to external pressures, or the network’s vision may become invalided (Popp et al., 2014). There are different types of networks. If network administrative organization successfully completed its function, the structure might be changed, and the network administrative organization can leave the network. This is considered one of the examples of network transformation. In response to Hurricane Maria, for example, a one-stop shop was established at Orlando International Airport in partnership with government agencies, the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and other community organizations. After the need was fulfilled and sendee coordination was accomplished, the network was dissolved, and the organizations continued performing their own functions after successfully serving to the people impacted from the hurricane. Of course, this was deliberate decision to dissolve the network, as it was not needed any longer is not considered a failure.

Why Do Networks Fail?

As with planning or organizing anything, it is always important to prepare for worse case scenarios. In the instance of collaborations, one must be aware of any contingencies or possible constraints. For example, collaborations that involve system-level planning are likely to consist of negotiation, followed by collaborations focused on administrative-level partnerships and service delivery partnerships. Additionally, it is important to plan for issues that would arise due to power imbalances and shocks. Lastly, because of competing institutional logics, the process, structure, governance, and desired outcomes of a collaboration can be significantly influenced (Bryson et al., 2006).

In addition to constraints from organizational and network logistical standpoints, there are three P’s of discretion to be aware of. The three P's are production, payoff', and preference discretion. This essentially involves ensuring that the partners in the collaborative network benefit from the collaboration in certain ways. While collaboration may not be 100 percent effective, it can prove to be much better than stand-alone government, simple contracting, or conventional philanthropy (Donahue & Zeckhauser, 2011). Networks often are innovative and flexible. However, innovation in networks is threatened by uncertainty and lack of institutionalization (O'Toole, 1997). Weak institutionalization can also negatively affect the trust, which is crucial for networks’ success and effectiveness (O'Toole, 1997). Therefore, uncertainty and lack of institutionalization are other potential constraints for networks or potential reasons for collapse (Weick, 2005).

No one likes to see a formed network to fail. However, network functions will cease if there is no need for it or it cannot meet the vision laid out at the formation and development phase. It is hard to predict exactly, but when the managers and leaders dissolve the network, it can continue its impact in an informal form to wield knowledge and expertise. It can also be annihilated or transformed into a different form. Regardless of the outcome, we can learn from the failed networks as highlighted briefly in the next section.

Lessons Learned Front Failed Nebvorks

Looking at failed networks, we see that organizations join networks for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, organizations can engage in them without realizing the possible risks involved. It is imperative that invested parties understand where certain boundary tensions lie. The main boundary tensions include differing mission, resources, capacity, responsibility, and accountability (Kettl, 2006). Additionally, collaborations can be limiting if they fail to understand the motivation behind the collaboration for all parties involved, as well as the internal and external factors within the organizations themselves. It is important to establish common ground with set boundaries to provide a proper balance of both a vertical and horizontal structure. One of the major lessons learned in terms of failing networks or a failure to “connect the dots” was a lack of coordination among intelligence agencies before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC (Weick, 2005). The failure in coordination led to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS is one of the largest federal department created after creation of Department of Defense. The DHS aims to facilitate core homeland security initiatives in the United States.

 
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