Using Network Analysis To Understand Systems Change For Health & Well-Being

Understanding System Change Using Network Analysis

The Rethink Health Initiative seeks to learn what it takes to equitably shift systems to foster improved health and well-being. An initiative of the Ripple Foundation, they’ve partnered with seven networks of community partners to learn from their on-the-ground work to shift systems and improve health. We helped them use the PARTNER community partner relationship management system to visualize these ecosystems both at a baseline level and over time to track the evolution of each system over time. They’re also sharing their results with each network of partners to help them adapt and improve their collaborative strategy. Using Network Analysis To Understand Systems Change has been a great success as they continue to collect more data and insights.

Using Network Analysis To Understand Systems Change and Community Collaboration.

ReThink Health, an initiative of the Ripple Foundation, is a set of projects seeking to better understand systems change among community partner networks. By understanding the decision-making processes, values, constraints and other factors that impact ecosystems of partners, they can help share best practices and insights nationwide to improve health and well-being across the country. The Initiative identified network analysis as one of several learning methods to better understand the dynamics in play in organizational networks of community partners. TWe work with the Initiative and seven of their partner community networks to measure their collaboration using our PARTNER community partner relationship management system.

What Does It Take to Equitably Shift Systems to Foster Better Health & Well-Being?

Using Network Analysis To Understand Systems Change. We started with ReThink Health by identifying their goals for the Network Analysis project and the main questions we wanted to answer. These included:

  • How are these organizations and their partners working together today?
  • What constraints affect their collaborative efforts?
  • How can the results be shared and leveraged by network members, stewards, and the RethinkHealth Initiative?

We adapted and customized our validated community partner 19-question survey to fit the context of each of the seven networks, such as the Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity, the BeWell Community Network in Florida, and the Five Healthy Towns Coalition in Michigan. Once prepared and approved by each Network, we administered the surveys using our best-practice inspired email schedule to boost their response rates and get as much partner feedback as possible. With their network data collected, we turned to analyzing and mapping their data to begin identifying insights and answers to their questions.

Leveraging Network Data & Insights to Inform System-Shifting Strategy

Understanding Systems Change Using Network Analysis

We mapped out each network of partners in a variety of ways, including how they’re interacting with each other and sharing resources and value, how they’re interconnected, and how they perceive one another. Our analysts designed custom Reports for each network containing network maps, resource inventories, and information on their perceptions to reflect on and strategize around. The ReThink Health team worked with them further and identified goals for shifting each network, along with action items to begin that movement. 

For example, one of the networks realized they were missing key community partners in their network, and chose to focus on building new partnerships with these groups. Another focused on getting their Core Team and peripheral partners on the same page regarding goals and collaborative processes. These lessons are providing continued insights into what it takes to shift systems and networks to foster improved health and well-being.

Continued Analysis Will Generate New Insights as Networks Grow & Change

With their initial analysis complete, the ReThink Health team is now beginning a second analysis to visualize how the networks are beginning to adapt and change in response to their initial network analysis results. Using the PARTNER community partner relationship management system, we’re administering a second survey to capture updated data about their structure, perceptions and interactions with one another. The Team will be able to compare the networks over time to contrast progress and identify the factors and constraints that matter most in determining their success. We continue to support ReThink as they develop new findings and translate their insight into practice nationwide. 

"We find that while organizations want to bring in more people and understand the need to work together, they often don't know how to do it well, or do it in name only. PARTNER helped us go deep and understand the decision making processes and governance structures, all the constraints they face so they could be more intentionally interdependent and improve their collaborative outcomes."
Understanding systems change using network analysis
Anna Creegan
Project Director, Ripple Foundation