Galvanize Champions

After completing the preceding phases, you should have a substantial network of stakeholders with a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the system. This shared understanding might also include knowing the capabilities of various actors, increased social capital, and a cultivated sense of community. Hopefully, there is interest in continued connection and collaboration.

A critical factor in the development and sustainability of the network is the presence of local leaders who serve as champions for the effort. Identify individuals within the program who have demonstrated active engagement, a willingness to support the ecosystem beyond their organizational interests, and whom others recognize as leaders. These leaders must be trusted and influential figures within the region and relevant fields, as their presence will inspire others to join and actively participate in the network.


Assess your current ecosystem

Take a close look at the key stakeholders, diverse perspectives, personalities, and subject matter expertise required to guide the network.


Formulate an ideal core team

Consider the skills and perspectives needed, and observe emerging individuals as current or future leaders. Assemble an ideal core team based on these considerations.


Establish clear objectives

Once the core team is identified and assembled, define the purpose and goals of the network. Determine the specific outcomes you aim to achieve, such as promoting collaboration, generating innovative ideas, or facilitating knowledge sharing.


Develop a compelling purpose and vision

Collaboratively create and effectively communicate the network’s purpose, benefits, and potential impact. Start with the challenge framing as a foundation, but be open to refining and redesigning based on the insights gained throughout the program.


Start developing the network’s governance and structure

As you identify champions, support the network to explore and establish governance structures. This may include identifying an appropriate “backbone” organization that can serve as a home for network coordination and management, including fundraising or oversight of common funds. (Some networks hold off on formalizing such an arrangement as structures organically emerge; in the long run, clear responsibilities for coordination will be important for sustaining the network.)

Decisions that will set your direction

  • What type of network are you trying to build? For example, is it primarily an information-sharing group or action-oriented?
  • Is there already an existing community that shares your mission? Is a new network or platform really needed?
  • Are there already engaged participants who could serve as these champions? What are their capacities? Who’s missing from this group?
  • How can we validate the desire for a network? What are the participants’ priorities?
  • What resources will the network need beyond your team’s support?
  • What role will your team/organization play in convening this network? Are you facilitating, funding, information sharing, or coaching? How long will you be involved?
  • How will you maintain neutrality and ensure the local community owns this network?

People you will need to find your way

  • Network Designers & Facilitators

Technical experts in network design, creation, and facilitation can support the network to get off the ground. They may be involved only for the short-term and hand over leadership and coordination after launch.

  • ​​Network Manager/Facilitator

This individual or team is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the innovation network. They coordinate activities, facilitate communication and collaboration, organize events and workshops, and foster participant engagement. They serve as the central point of contact and guide participants. They, and/or a host organization director, will engage in fundraising and other resource mobilization efforts for the network.

  • Ambassadors

Enthusiastic individuals who actively and naturally promote and advocate for the network’s purpose. They help create awareness, engage potential members, and encourage participation.

  • Subject Matter Experts

These are individuals with deep content knowledge, technical expertise, or specific skills relevant to the network’s purpose, goals, and/or objectives. They contribute their knowledge, offer guidance, and provide insights to other participants.

  • Visionaries

They advocate for innovation via a deep understanding of the community’s problems and actively promote the importance of addressing complex issues. They are skilled at making a compelling case and communicating their vision. They inspire others to join the network, attracting diverse stakeholders who are attracted to the potential for change.

  • Community Connectors and Brokers

Local leaders with solid connections and relationships within their communities can serve as bridges, linking the network with local organizations, businesses, government entities, and community members. Their ability to connect different stakeholders enables collaboration across otherwise disconnected groups.

  • Knowledge Sharers

Local leaders possess invaluable insights and contextual knowledge about the community’s needs, strengths, and aspirations. They contribute their expertise to the network by sharing local wisdom, identifying relevant challenges, and providing feedback on potential solutions. Their knowledge helps shape the network’s strategies, ensuring innovation initiatives align with the community’s context.

  • A Core Team

A group of influential individuals (likely a mix of the roles above) who provide strategic guidance, oversight, and governance to the network. They offer expertise, make important decisions, and ensure alignment with the organization’s goals. This committee or board may consist of executives, subject matter experts, and key stakeholders.

Review your plan for these critical elements

Successful networks require a delicate balance of relationships, influence, and timing. To assess readiness and interest in establishing a network, look for the following indicators:

  • Agreement on the problem: Stakeholders, including impacted communities and key leaders, share a basic understanding of the problem. Your team should have cultivated this alignment throughout the systems sensing process and can reinforce it during the validation phase or early stakeholder meetings.
  • The urgency for change: The proposed network should have substantial local momentum, support, and a sense of urgency. There should be frustration with current approaches and outcomes, highlighting the need for a transformative solution.
  • Influential leaders: Identify influential and respected individuals or groups who can inspire confidence and unite diverse perspectives. These leaders play a crucial role in mobilizing stakeholders and driving collective action.
  • Available resources: Ensure access to an initial pool of resources. Ideally, the network would secure funding for the first two to three years. Adequate resources are essential for launching and sustaining the network’s activities.
  • The basis for collaboration: Look for the presence of trusted relationships and some existing collaborative efforts that can serve as a foundation for the network. Building upon these relationships and experiences strengthens the collective potential of the network.
  • Capacity for coordination: Evaluate whether forming a core team and filling the necessary roles outlined in the previous section is feasible. A dedicated team with defined responsibilities is essential for effective coordination within the network.

See the warning signs first

Monitoring warning signs is crucial to maintaining a healthy and effective innovation network. By recognizing these signs early on, you can proactively address underlying issues and revitalize the network for greater success.

  • Loss of Leadership and Direction: Lack of strong leadership, clear direction, or effective governance can lead to confusion, inefficiency, and reduced enthusiasm among participants.
  • Lack of Diversity and Inclusivity: Limited diversity in participants’ backgrounds, perspectives, or expertise can hinder the network’s ability to generate innovative ideas.
  • Inadequate Resource Allocation: Insufficient financial and non-financial resources can hamper the network’s activities and its ability to support innovation.
  • Absence of Learning and Adaptation, Resistance to Change: A stagnant network may lack learning opportunities, feedback loops, and the willingness to adapt based on lessons learned. Also, resistance to change can hinder innovation and limit the network’s effectiveness.
  • Erosion of Trust and Engagement: Diminished trust, conflicts, lack of transparency, and accountability can undermine collaboration and knowledge sharing. Disengagement and decreased participation indicate a failing network.
  • Fragmentation and Silo Mentality: Visible signs of fragmentation, territorial behaviors, and a silo mentality hinder collaboration and cohesion within the network.

These resources can help you on your journey

  • Network Convening Example Deck (GKI’s Accelerating Innovation for Resilience Bangladesh)

This Mural contains exercises for each step in Phase 4 (Galvanize Champions, Choose Modalities, and Leave Resources).  Use the top portion of the Mural to support the Network to identify its purpose. Mural Template: Network Purpose, Governance, Values, and Activity Plan.

Additional Resources on Network Building within Systems Change and Innovation:

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