Leveraging Networks for Impact, Part 2: Best Practice Roundtable

01/12/2015

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Republished with kind permission from the Melton Foundation.

The second "Leveraging Networks for Impact" roundtable took place on November 19th at the Institute for International Education (IIE), convened by IIE, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and the Melton Foundation. Other representatives of institutions that fund or manage global networks of scholars, fellows, or other types of leaders joined them to share best practices for how these networks can contribute to transformative positive change.

At the first roundtable in April 2014, participants discussed the tensions between elite versus diverse networks, collaborative versus competitive networks, and online versus in-person interactions. For this second meeting, we focused on the following two questions:

1. How do we measure the impact of networks?
2. How do we resource networks to maximize this impact?

Following welcoming remarks by host convener Jonah Kokodyniak, IIE's deputy vice president of strategic development, Jeff Peck, vice provost for global strategies and dean of the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences at Baruch College in New York City, kicked off the discussion with opening remarks, focusing on the efficient use of networks, and how his position as dean allows him to connect varied networks. As one of 26 colleges in the New York City system, competition versus collaboration is something Baruch must face every day.

An example Dr. Peck used with CUNY was the WC2 University Network, originally meant to bring together universities with a mutual interest in five issues, create research groups, and then bring people together for discussion and learning. However, the network had to re-think its function and sustainability, and answer a simple question: "What are we getting out of this?"

What they discovered was that the framework (global networks) had itself become a much more interesting conversation and relationship, and in the end, became the primary focus for the network.

Measuring Impact

The discussion moved quickly to the question of whether we over-emphasize data in measuring impact. We concluded that both qualitative and quantitative information is critical in measuring impact. In terms of impact, what constitutes success? In private enterprise, defining impact has been easier to measure through sales, market share, and investment.

However, outside of private enterprise, a big challenge in measuring impact is demonstrating causal effect. How can you demonstrate that a change—say an increase in literacy in a specific region—is attributable to your network?

Is a Network a Means, an End, or Both?

The question of what to measure is linked to the network's value proposition. To what extent does the network alone have intrinsic value, for example, as a venue for members to network and share? Or is its value found in fulfilling a broader purpose or mission? Several members indicated that the value is, in fact, a balance between satisfying members' individual motivations and interests and ensuring the network works towards a common extrinsic purpose.

What Do You Do With Your Cohorts and Alumni?

The group tackled the issue of how networks could truly develop long lasting collaboration and involvement with their alumni. For instance, Luce scholars are introduced to Asia for a year. However after that year, the question becomes, "What do they do? How do they continue to contribute?"

One suggestion (which a participant is currently working on implementing) was to hold transformative leadership seminars to help members of a network remember, at a crucial point, what they learned about giving back so that they can go into the real world with that support and engagement.

How Can a Network Vie for the Attention of Its Members?

Networks are comprised of members with multiple afflictions, so how does one deal in these global networks? The group agreed that giving opportunities to retain identity and empower members to take an active part in the course of the network can truly engage and sustain that relationship.

Attendees

Ann Marie Almeida, BRAC
Winthrop Carty, Melton Foundation
Rachel Clift, MasterCard Foundation's Scholar's Program
Li Ling, Luce Foundation
Padmini Mangunta, Melton Foundation
Jeffrey Peck, Baruch University CUNY
Rachel Kleinfeld, Truman National Security Project
Devin Stewart, Carnegie Council
Takashi Yoshizaki, Artbeat
Jenna Zhang,Carnegie Council

Next Steps

This group (or network!) of network facilitators is excited to continue robust conversation involving the emerging trends in managing networks. The group decided to reconvene in approximately six months, and continue to grow participation. The next meeting will take place at Baruch College on April 15, 12:00pm in the Newman Vertical Campus, 8th floor.

If you would like to participate in this conversation, please contact any one of the following:

Winthrop Carty at the Melton Foundation

Devin Stewart at Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

Jonah Kokodyniak at the Institute of International Education (IIE)

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