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Effective networks for improvement

Published: 17th March 2014

This learning report published by the Health Foundation will help those who want to use networks as a mechanism for change, and guide improvement leaders to ensure their networks are designed and run in line with what works best.

The review drew on the literature and empirical evidence about effective networks to describe the component parts of a successful improvement network. The learning report presents the lessons from an evidence review and case study work undertaken by McKinsey Hospital Institute.

Download Effective networks for improvement

While the review found no ‘one size fits all’ formula for successful network design, it did identify five core features of effective networks. These are:

  • Common purpose. The purpose needs to be clear and stated at the start.
  • Co-operative structure. The style of leadership is important. It is often facilitative and can come from a respected figure. Members should be encouraged to get involved in the network’s development.
  • Critical mass. Membership can be encouraged by offering members something they would value. An engagement strategy needs to be in place and resourcing needs must be considered.
  • Collective intelligence. There needs to be an easy way to share experiences and results within a safe environment. Feedback on any impact needs to be given.
  • Community building. Personal contact should be encouraged and smaller sub-groups may need to be established.

These features are interdependent, and interact to give a network energy and momentum. They ensure a clear direction, credibility and increased scale and reach, while enhancing knowledge, encouraging innovation and creating meaningful relationships. All five features are mutually reinforcing, and their combined effect enables quality improvement, learning and change to happen.

Together they can be represented diagrammatically as the 5C wheel – a comprehensive framework for developing a network that can also serve as a diagnostic tool.

Download a slide depicting the 5C wheel

The short film below from the Health Foundation explains the 5C model further.

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