Step 1

Define the purpose of the network

Networks develop and members come together because they share a common sense of purpose which motivates them to work together. This sense of purpose must be internal to the group as opposed to imposed, and may well change or progress over time. Members must feel ownership and know exactly why the network exists.  This sense of purpose must outweigh any short-term costs for members to engage.

The purpose is therefore all important: it represents the aims and objectives of the network and enables an assessment of the network’s progress and development over time.

There are two potential types of common purpose. The first is support. Here, members join the network to primarily obtain support and become effective in their individual work. The second is agency. Here members coordinate their efforts to act together to produce change for the common good of their community around an issue that they are strongly committed to. Many networks achieve some sort of balance of the two.

Networks need to be clear about the purpose and clear goals need to be defined to produce a common agenda that the group wishes to succeed. The network needs to be able to clearly answer the questions: