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Creating Networks that Work

CAP Goals with John Kamensky by cdorobek

How will the 14 newly-designated cross-agency priority goal leaders organize to achieve the goals they’ve committed to achieve? There’s a practical guide book that can help.

The President’s FY 2013 budget announced the first set of cross-agency priority goals – seven focus on mission-related goals such as doubling the number of U.S. exports by 2014, and seven focus on mission-support goals, such as closing critical skill gaps in the federal workforce.

“Lead government officials” were named to lead each of these goals. How will they choose to approach their tasks?

A friend just sent me a copy of a new book “Networks that Work,” by Paul Vandeventer and Myrna Mandell. Both have lots of experience in helping organize collaborative networks at the local and regional levels in both the public and non-profit arenas. Their book offers practical advice for anyone trying to get something done and need to use a cross-agency or cross-sector network to be successful.

For example, the book offers advice on how to assess the creation of a network, and includes a checklist of questions to ask along the way to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. The book ends with a set of “guiding principles” that I’ve found, in practice, are really important to keep in mind.

Nine Guiding Principles:

  • Focus on shared purpose
  • Start from pre-existing relationships
  • Make sure members assess their tolerance for risk
  • Respect organizational and institutional autonomy – while establishing common ground
  • Assure up-front time, resources, and organizational commitment from key players
  • Build new types of relationships
  • Emphasize equal partnership
  • Expect – even embrace – areas where conflict is likely to occur and develop an understanding of how to resolve and establish common ground
  • Secure needed resources for operation

The book (and an accompanying website) also includes a series of case studies of the three different kinds of networks:

Networks to Cooperate. Where networks are used to cooperate, they share best practices, build common agendas, and build momentum. This is the most common form (and least threatening to organizational autonomy of its members). The case example deals with the North American Alliance for Fair Employment.

Networks to Coordinate. Where networks are used to coordinate, they pursue joint service delivery, develop joint policy, and engage in activities requiring mutual reliance. This form of networks is seen as a moderate risk to members’ organizational autonomy. The case example deals with the California Partnership.

Networks to Collaborate. Where networks are used to collaborate, there is a higher perceived risk to organizational autonomy of its members. It involves representatives at the table who come with authority to bind their organizations to network decisions and reach agreement on ways they play their roles within the larger system. The case example deals with The Water Forum.

The book also includes practical items such as a sample position description for a network manager and a sample network agreement between cooperating parties.

So, if you’re involved in managing an existing or a future network, you might find the book a handy guide.

For part 1 — CAP Goals – A New Government Acronym Is Born

Click here for the interview interview with Chris Dorobek on theGovInsight’s Dorobek Insider Program.

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