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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > N, O > Networks


Several autonomous nodes sharing common values or interests, linked together in interdependent relations.

(Janice Gross Stein, et al. Networks of Knowledge: Collaborative Innovation in International Learning (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001).


Networks connect all members to each other in a flatter structure, without a pyramid and sometimes even without a formal centre. They enable communication and collaboration among members who may be dispersed in different organizations, in space and in time. Networks multiply the channels through which information and exchange flow, and are, therefore much less subject to blockage and gridlock.

Organizations use networks as a relatively inexpensive way of getting information. To the extent that they connect with civil society, networks give legitimacy to the policy process.

As a social morphology, the network can be compared to other morphologies such as markets and hierarchies. Networks emphasize interpersonal relationships and shared interests. Market relationships are based on impersonal exchanges of goods and money. Hierarchies define their relationships on written rules.

Lipnack & Stamps (1994), cited five organizing principles of networks:

• Unifying Purpose: Purpose is the glue and the driver. Common views, values, and goals hold a network together. Shared focus on desired results keeps a network in synch and on track.

• Independent Members: Independence is a prerequisite for interdependence. Each member of the network, whether a person, company, or country, can stand on its own while benefiting from being part of the whole.

• Voluntary Links: Just add links. The distinguishing feature of networks is their links, far more profuse and omni-directional than in other types of organization. As communication pathways increase, people and groups interact more. As more relationships develop, trust strengthens, which reduces the cost of doing business and generates greater opportunities.

• Multiple Leaders: Fewer bosses, more leaders. Networks are leaderful, not leaderless. Each person or group in a network has something unique to contribute at some point in the process. With more than one leader, the network as a whole has great resiliency.

• Integrated Levels: Networks are multi-levelled, not flat. Lumpy with small groups and clustered with coalitions, networks involve both the hierarchy and the “lower-archy”, which leads them to action rather than simply making recommendations to others.


Janice Gross Stein, "Canada by Mondrian: Networked Federalism in an Era of Globalization" in Canada By Picasso (Ottawa: Conference Board of Canada, 2006) pp 15-58.

Janice Gross Stein, et al. Networks of Knowledge: Collaborative Innovation in International Learning (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001).

O’Brien, R. (2002). Global Civil Society Networks Online: Zapatistas, the MAI, and Landmines. Retrieved on July 7, 2008, from



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