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Inter-Organizational Networking


By David Horton Smith with contributions from Anthony Judge. Both social science literature and practical experience show that networking benefits the organizations themselves and advances their common goals. This paper deals with Inter-Organizational Networks (know as IONS), their functioning and operations and the special characteristics of this style of cooperation. Published in Transnational Associations, 30, 1978, 10, pp. 429-434

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What is a network ?
How are networks different from other kinds of groups or systems ?
What are the functions, advantages, and disadvantages of networks ?
What is the nature of network links, or how do nodes relate ?
Sharing of Node Resources
What organizations should be included in a network as nodes ?
How can networks deal with national, state and action levels ?
What conditions favor or hinder the development of networks ?
How can interested organizations actually form a network ?
How can networks be changed once started ?
What are the important roles that need to be played in a network ?
How can a network be made more likely to succeed ?
References

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What is a network ?

The term "network" is used to refer to any pattern of interrelationships among people or organizations where each is linked or connected to every other person or organization in the pattern, directly or indirectly. In this paper, the term "network" is used exclusively to refer to lONs.

There is a social science term which we will use here to represent these people or organizations in a network : "node". This term allows us to talk about networks abstractly without specifying the type of participant, or the particular type of network, under consideration (e.g. TV stations, libraries, or organizations serving or working for the handicapped). The connections between nodes in a network can be called by many names-branches, channels, relationships, linkages, etc. Here we will use the term "link" and define network as : a pattern of links among nodes that are reachable from every other node. Therefore, if a possible node has no links to a network, it is not part of that given network.

Networking is simply the process of helping to form, maintain, enhance or otherwise contribute to the existence and effective functioning of a network. Networking is working to help a network, rather than being passive or working to harm it (which we call anti-networking). But these definitions are just the bare bones of networks and networking. The meat on the bones is a kind of spirit, tone or style of working together for a common goal or goals.

Some of this style is captured by certain phrases and terms which are often said to characterize networks and networking : group consciousness, cooperative processes, seeking of group consensus in action, a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, lateral and bilateral rather than vertical and hierarchical relationships, two-way communication, multi-directional flows of information and other resources, equality, accessibility, flexibility, responsiveness, synthesis of opposites and integration of differences in service of a common goal, sharing of some common values and objectives-perhaps even common biases.


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