Network Science 101

Network Science 1012019-08-19T16:40:10-07:00


Network Science is the science of how things are connected. At VNL we use Network Science as the guiding basis of learning, measurement, and supporting communities. Chances are, you are already thinking like a network scientist. We are excited to show you more about the science and how it can support our shared value of working together for greater impact and improved outcomes. Take a look!

The Strength of Weak Ties Infographic

Are you interested in learning more about network science?

Our Goal: Take you beyond the basic idea of collaboration, to look behind the network map, and develop your understanding of how your networks can make a sustainable impact.

At Visible Network Labs, we provide all of the tools, technologies, and services that anyone needs to successfully implement and assess a network intervention. Network interventions are the intentional act of bringing together diverse cross-sector partners to impact a social or health outcome.

Many people today find themselves engaged in the “network way of working”- for example, as a leader of a cross-sector community network, a social worker connecting a client to resources, or a policy maker identifying expansion opportunities for a state-wide health initiative. There is also increasing awareness of the importance of personal support networks – like friends and family – as a core component of individual health and well-being. 

The rise of network approaches in recent years includes collective impact models, restorative justice initiatives, Accountable Health Communities, peer support communities for mental health, and much more. All of these are complex approaches and require data to understand them, and make decisions about how to get to outcomes. We built PARTNER, our social connectedness platform, on the belief that using a network science approach and a focus on making networked data easy to collect, store, use, and interpret, we can collectively achieve better health and well-being. The network way of working is based on a fundamental belief that collectively we can achieve more than any one can achieve alone. But network science guides us with a fundamental principle: More Is Not Better. But with data, we can find the right balance of how to achieve efficient and effective networks, without excessive burden on members and resources. You can read more about that in this blog which lays out the secrets of network science, which you probably already know! Every training we do, every tool we create is based in network science. Like you, we believe that collaborative approaches are innovative and can lead to great outcomes, but we venture towards that with caution, and use data and intuitive network science principles like the Strength of Weak Ties, Structural Holes, and Network Leadership to bring together data, a lot of hard work, and intuition to build efficient networks that have a return on investment, are built on a business case and value system that is going to support sustainability, and achie outcomes. Our social connectedness platform PARTNER equips the wellness and healthcare ecosystem to leverage the impact of social support networks, providing data collection and analysis tools to track social support networks at the individual, organizational, and systems levels.


Inclusiveness: Network leadership is something everyone needs. This is not a model only for backbone/leadership organizations, but is designed to help build network leadership skills of anyone interacting with others. This includes managers, partners, funders, advocates, community organizers, residents, clients, and many other types of people/organizations.

Community and Cultural Sensitivity: Each community is different and each culture has varying ways of communicating and interacting. There is no one best approach to Network Leadership. Network Leadership builds skills and capacity in order to empower network leaders/members to adapt them to their context, culture, and community.

Relationship Focused: At the heart of Network Leadership is the concepts of interaction, relationships, systems building, and partnerships. Almost everyone is being asked to work across sectors in partnership with others in networks (referred to by many different names such as coalitions, partnerships, collaboratives, and collective impacts) in turn bridging across boundaries and interacting with both the usual and unusual suspects. Network Leadership focuses on ways that people, communities, and organizations interact and how relationships among and within relationships affect one another and their related outcomes.

Skills Based: Network leadership is focused on skills, not a prescribed list of “must do’s,” including a customized set of skills to successfully engage partners in collaborative work.

Data Driven: Network leaders can manage and nurture relationships, but they need data to do it. Network leadership demonstrates how to build an evidence base by collecting and using many different kinds of data to make decisions.

Reflective: With data and experience, Network Leaders practice reflection in collaboration with partners, stakeholders, and communities to determine action steps and strategies.

Adaptive: Network leaders use reflection to adapt their leadership practice. Many types of data are used to inform thinking and decision-making.

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