Creating a Data-Driven Network Strategy

Creating a Data-Driven Network Strategy

2019-02-09T18:11:17-06:00

Working with networks and partnerships is difficult. Most of us working with cross-sector community networks are relatively new to the field. As an evolving area of practice, there’s still a shortage of resources out there to help you do your job better. How do you created an informed strategy? What data can you possibly use to make sense of your web of connections?

use network analysis to create a network strategy. 

This isn’t a new problem. In fact it was this problem that led us to create the PARTNER Tool nearly a decade ago! PARTNER is an organizational network analysis tool that measures and visualizes both the structure and quality of your organizational partnerships. This is key: most network mapping tools focus only on structure: who is working with who. While this is helpful, it doesn’t really provide you the information you need to create a strategy for your network. PARTNER was designed with community networks in mind!

PARTNER digs deeper, and provides you the means to analyze each connection in your network. It includes metrics like trust, reliability,  resource contribution, and more. You can explore not only who is working with you, but how each party perceives the tie and their partners. Once you understand the quality of your relationships, you can begin pinpointing gaps to build a strategy.

An example of partner creating a network strategy.

Let’s say that a network of food banks and government agencies focused on nutrition used the PARTNER Tool to evaluate their work. They noticed in their results that while the network’s lead agency is viewed as trustworthy and reliable by other partners, many of the smaller nonprofits are viewed unreliably. You can spend your time facilitating stronger relationships between your smaller network organizations to build trust and reliability.

Or perhaps your PARTNER analysis shows that your lead agency views the resource support of your partners as inadequate. On the other hand, the partners strongly believe their support meets standards. These results would suggest you work on leveraging your resources, to review how you are using the contributions of your partners and improve efficiency of use.

Structure metrics can also provide valuable feedback. PARTNER can show you where you have redundant ties to help manage relationships more thoughtfully. Find key partners with centrality measures and lots more.

PARTNER is the only network analysis tool that provides quality metrics: Key for network strategy.

What else sets PARTNER apart from other tools? Beyond its quality metrics, verified in numerous academic studies, PARTNER comes with a complete package of supportive resources. We provide reports and consulting by VNL staff, training and workshops by our practitioner experts, a peer-learning forum to share ideas and get help, and a data dashboard to view and compare your PARTNER results against other networks. No other network analysis tool comes close to providing all these features & support!

Networks are complex, often a result of the wicked problems they’re created to address. It can seem hopeless sometimes trying to glean information from the slurry of connections and relationships. You shouldn’t give up though: more than 4,000 networks and 40,000 groups have used the PARTNER Tool to evaluate their network and build a strategy for the future. Visit the PARTNER page for more information!

If you’re worried about using the tool, or translating the results into action, we can help with that. You can purchase a full-length Report using your PARTNER results, or a single page Highlights Report. Our Learning Lab also offers trainings and workshops, specific to PARTNER as well as network leadership more broadly. For longer, more-involved evaluation projects, Visible Network Labs can provide more in-depth consulting services. Visit our Consulting page for more information.

About the author

Alex Derr is the Marketing Coordinator for Visible Network Labs. Alex leads our content creation work, helping us produce and share engaging articles, infographics and other resources. He also manages our website, email and social media strategies while supporting our Learning Lab. You can learn more about Alex and our entire team here.

Contact Alex: Alexmderr@visiblenetworklabs.com