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Free Primer on Creating Nonprofit Networks

Via Connectedness, the Net Gains Handbook on building social change networks is available from the Innovation Network for Communities.

From the Introduction:

Relying on networks to generate social change is not new to philanthropy and nonprofits. Many foundations have funded the civil rights, feminist, and consumer movements for decades and more recently have assembled “learning networks” of grantees that work together to innovate and improve their practices. As Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, points out, “community organizers and grass roots organizations have applied network concepts for years.” 

But something new and important is afoot. The nonprofit and philanthropic sectors are under growing demand to do more and to do better. The number of nonprofit organizations is expanding substantially, as are the tasks the civil sector undertakes in light of government downsizing. “We’re seeing growth of nonprofit organizations, but not much change in the systems they are trying to impact,” says Pat Brandes, a foundation executive in Boston

Nonprofit capacity is a “chronic problem,” writes Jonathan Peizer of the Open Society Institute. “The sector must embrace new paradigms.” Gideon Rosenblatt, executive director of a Seattle nonprofit and a former Microsoft senior manager, notes that “many environmental leaders are questioning whether the environmental movement has the right strategies and organizational structures in place.” The movement, he contends, has “over-invested in institutional overhead” and “is replicating board development, fundraising and many other functions across thousands of very small organizations.” It is essential, Rosenblatt concludes, to “un-bundle” and rebuild the environmental organizational structure using network approaches.

I've just downloaded and begun to read, but this Open Source handbook looks like a great primer on developing networks between nonprofits.

According to the Table of Contents, it covers:

Part I: Is a Network Approach Right for You?   

1. Starting Points   

2. What We Mean by Network   

3. The Difference a Network Makes   

4. The Business Case for Social-Change Networks   

5. Gut Check: What It Takes to Build Networks   

Part II: Organizing Networks: Seven Decisions   

6. Three Networks in One: Connection, Alignment, and Production Nets   

7. Reasons that Bind: Collective Value Propositions   

8. Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Privilege of Membership   

9. Who Decides What and How: Network Governance   

10. The Shape of Things To Come: Structures of Networks   

11. Rules to Live By: Operating Principles for Network Building   

12. The Different Roles of Network Builders   

13. When Funders Organize Networks   

Part III: Managing a Network’s Development: Five Tasks   

14. Weaving Connections: Ties that Bind   

15. Facilitating Alignment: Production Agreements   

16. Coordinating Production: Who Does What   

17. Operating the Network: Management Issues to Anticipate   

18. Taking a Network’s Pulse: Monitoring and Evaluation   

19. Visualizing Networks: Maps that Reveal   

Part IV: Net Gains in the Social-Change Sector   

20. Building the Civil Sector’s Networks: Five Strategies   

A Network Glossary 

Resources for Network Builders

I'm going to take a look and then try to post some chapter summaries if that seems like it would be helpful.



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