Day 14 – N: Network

If you type the keywords ‘network definition’ in google, you would be presented with a few choices under the categories ‘noun’ and ‘verb’. The ones which I have chosen resonate with the topic for today’s post, namely, knowledge network. These are:

• a group or system of interconnected people or things
• a group of people who exchange information and contacts for professional or social purposes

• interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts

Knowledge networks are essentially a platform for individuals and groups of like-minded people to brainstorm, share, learn from each other and most importantly collaborate with one another to develop, distribute and apply knowledge. Knowledge network is not a modern phenomenon and there are number of references of formal networks that existed between artists, tradesmen etc. in the medieval days.

However, of late, the concept has received a lot of impetus in both the profit and not-for-profit world. In his foreword to a 2011 United Nations publication called “Networks for Prosperity,” Jan Wouters, director of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies at KU Leuven, wrote: “Networks, formal and informal, local and global, are increasingly important channels for pursuing policy goals in a globalizing world.”

The key goals for knowledge network include:
• Coordination
• Learning / Innovation
• Translation / Local Adaption
• Support of Individual Members

To achieve the goals mentioned above, it is important to leverage a framework, the key elements of which are:
• Outcomes
• Behaviours
• Dynamics
• Design

And what are the key constituents for effective knowledge networks? These include:
• Leaders’ shared theory of change
• Objectives/outcomes/purpose
• Role of expertise and experimentation
• Inclusion and participation
• Operating model
• Convening structures and infrastructures
• Facilitation and social norm development
• Measurement, feedback and incentives

I have relied heavily on the article Designing Effective Knowledge Networks by Katrina Pugh and Laurence Prusak for this post. If the titbits shared above interests you, please click here to read the full article.

And if you would like to see a real example of a vibrant knowledge network, please explore the cancer knowledge network (CKN). The CKN team comprises medical professionals, patients, survivors and caregivers. The network is used as a forum to share information, teach and provide resources for oncologists, trainees, nurses, general practitioners, pharmacists and patients. Launched in April 2011, CKN has a readership of over 200,000 viewers from all across the world. Click here to know more about CKN.

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