What Follows What?
- The level of engagement (and stability, sustainability) is a function of perceived value of the network by primary stakeholders;
- Perceived value of the network is a function of network’s activities and outcomes and their correlation with my or my agency’s and/or other key stakeholder priorities.
- Correlation of network activities and outcomes with my or my agency’s or key stakeholder priorities is a function of active, effective listening to the participants and the partnership or network’s key stakeholders.
- Active, effective listening is a function of an intentional, well-designed, actively-managed two-way communications strategy.
- An intentional, well-defined actively-managed, two-way communications strategy is a function of well-defined communications objectives, having a communications ‘team’ involved, a means for capturing and effectively evaluating then applying feedback related to agreed network objectives.
- An effective communications strategy is a function is being able to demonstrate to network participants/key stakeholders that they are being listened to and that the network is mounting initiatives effectively addressing the priority issues as agreed by the network’s stakeholders.
- Two indispensable, interrelated elements: Relevance and perceived value!
A basic need is to define stakeholders and their unique value criteria – tailoring the communications strategy(ies) to those. The proliferation of electronic/digital media gives us many options – examples being:
- Newsletters/Updates – digital or, yes, in some cases, hard copy.
- Secure, user-friendly, information and, potentially, resource intensive web site specific to the network or partnership.
- Specifically-planned conversations with key stakeholder leadership – schedule for this understood by all.
- Intake questionnaire during on-boarding/orientation that explores new participants’ priorities, perceived needs, and expectations, and what unique ‘value added’ they may bring to the network.
- Annual ‘membership’ questionnaire/survey which, among other things, addresses the level of their engagement (see suggestions for such a survey elsewhere on this website), their perceived value of the network value, their perception of the network’s impact on their agency’s priorities and, generically, in the sector or issue on which the network is focused.
- Take this feedback seriously. Active review, evaluation, and consideration of the feedback’s implications by network leadership.
- Pro-active communications back to stakeholders about what’s been heard and how the network is responding to their input.
- Active contact/connection with other networks relevant to your network’s objectives — exploring resource and information sharing, joint-initiatives, etc.
Defining vision, specific objectives, and evaluating outcomes
- All network success – both overall, macro level as well as program/initiative-specific is vision driven.
- Vision is another way to state or outline the dreams for an alternative future.
- How will we know if/when we succeed? How will the world be different? And, if we do succeed, what then?
- Vision must be broken down into limited achievable objectives giving the network ability to evaluate progress. This allows communication of that progress to stakeholders or participants and provides the basis for fulfillment and accomplishment in the network.
- That sense of fulfillment and accomplishment is a key element in perceived value of the network.
- Limited, achievable objectives must always
- Have clear Kingdom value in contrast to being a private agenda.
- Have clear value and relevance to the network’s stated objectives.
- Have clear value and relevance to the stakeholder’s needs and priorities.
- Have clear elements of what, who, and when in your plan. The greater the specificity the higher the value for your evaluation and reporting..
- Evaluation should cover primary health indicators relevant to the network/partnership itself as well as the network’s objectives. (See a “health indicators” evaluation tool elsewhere on this website.)
- Evaluation must, at a minimum, be an annual network activity.
- Evaluation, its effective analysis, and the honest feedback of this analysis to the stakeholders is a major factor in the network’s credibility and perceived value.
Sustainability & Resources
Network sustainability and the resources to support it are a function of:
- Compelling vision. (Core resources of people, money, and prayer always follow vision.)
- Demonstrable outcomes – sustainable ‘proof of concept.’
- Credibility regarding promise and performance.
- Perceived relevance and value of the network by participants.
- Strong, diversified, representative network leadership team which meets/communicates regularly providing a framework for innovation or unexpected developments.
- Strongest possible agency/participant engagement practices that producing the widest, most consistent “ownership” of the vision.
- Intentional engagement of participants in diversified network leadership roles. Frequently “working groups,” or “task forces” addressing specific issues widen the options for involvement by members of the network.
- Communications that clearly articulates network progress and outcomes in terms each primary stakeholder community understands and values.
Network Participant’s Engagement
To be successful and sustainable, engagement in a network must be at two levels – the individual representing a mission or agency and the agency itself as reflected by the ‘buy in’ and commitment of the agency’s leadership. In a healthy, productive relationship with the network these two will always be in alignment.
High engagement is usually the result of perceived value, priority, and relevance ascribed by the participant to the networks general vision and specific program initiatives and outcomes. Factors contributing to high perceived value and, therefore, likely higher engagement are:
- A relentless commitment by network leadership to monitoring members participation; finding ways to help them engage; consciously promoting engagement; demonstrating the network’s commitment to high levels of engagement through its effective communications.
- Creative, well-thought through options by the network for ‘members’ participation – what they can do, how they do it, for how long, etc.
- Clear, well-defined ‘on-boarding’ process in which the network’s general vision and specific objectives and the new participant (agency and individual) vision and motivation for joining the network are well understood. Then a clear alignment between the network purpose and character and the new participant’s expectations.
- Clear definition and transparency regarding how the network is governed: leadership selected, priorities established, decisions made, and specific initiatives are organized and evaluated.
- Clear, well-defined opportunities for the participants’ involvement in the network’s priority-setting, its leadership (general or task force level), or how to represent the network to other individuals, agencies, or networks. (These are “handles on the moving train.”)
- Consistent, candid communications by the network regarding its practical outcomes (both good news and that which is possibly disappointing – with info on what’s been learned).
- Consistent, explicit expressions of appreciation by leadership for the engagement – whether individual or agency.