How do networked improvement communities (NICs) create a social structure to catalyze the type of community that can solve complex problems? Based upon prior theorizing, research literature, and observations of developing NICs, here we describe a framework for use as an analytic tool for understanding NIC emergence and maturation.
As the number of improvement networks continues to grow, the need for a common way to look across networks to understand their development becomes increasingly important. Such networks are part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Networks for School Improvement (NSI) initiative. Gates has invested in intermediary organizations that will drive and organize networks of secondary schools towards continuous improvement and better outcomes for students. These intermediaries must guide network members in their use of continuous improvement methods, consolidate and communicate learnings that emerge in local sites across the network, and foster a trusting learning community across diverse contexts, among other core tasks.
In order to help these intermediaries learn about their specific networks and help Gates learn about its larger community of networks, Carnegie is working with the Partners for Network Improvement (PNI) at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center. Together, they will provide a conceptual and analytics infrastructure for understanding network health and development, which includes a survey of network health and an associated set of reporting and analysis tools. The team is deploying a network health survey to each NSI from which an associated set of reports will be produced to inform NSI membership and leaders. By supporting NSIs to better understand themselves, this work will help them in their efforts to become organized, engaged, and self-sustaining learning communities.
This work is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.