Unincorporated Networks and Coalitions
Unincorporated networks and coalitions operate along a spectrum of formality. Formal networks and coalitions (such as the Washington Rural Health Collaborative) have more organizational structure than informal networks and coalitions (such as the Patient, Consumer and Public Health Coalition). In both cases, members collaboratively determine the direction in which the networks move.
Formal Networks and Coalitions
Funders often look upon formal health networks or coalitions as forward-thinking organizations for leveraging limited resources. Formal networks and coalitions consist of autonomous members sharing knowledge and resources. The formality entails signing a Memorandum of Agreement/Understanding (MOA/MOU), which, while not a legally binding document, represents a member's investment and agreement to participate in the network or coalition. Typically the document includes an overview of goals and activities of the network or coalition and provides details on the signing member's role and responsibilities. Rural Health Innovations has developed guidelines for what to include in your MOA/MOU.
Some examples of formal health networks include:
- Arizona Rural Women's Health Network (AzRWHN)
- Maryland Faith Community Health Network
- Pathways Community Hub
- West Virginia's Partners In Health Network Regional Collaborative Services
- National Community-Based Organization Network
- Knox East TN Healthcare Coalition
- Hawaii Collaborative Health Initiative
- Having Our Say
Informal Networks and Coalitions
Informal rural networks and coalitions are often ad hoc, have fluid membership, and don't have formal governance structures in place. When organized informally, networks and coalitions are often self-sufficient and sustain themselves on in-kind contributions from members. Because of the informality and limited documentation and processes, informal networks are intrinsically restricted in what they are able to accomplish, yet their value should not be underrated. In some circumstances, informal networks develop into formal collaborations.
Examples of informal health networks and coalitions include The Patient, Consumer, and Public Health Coalition and Upper Peninsula Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee.
Resources to Learn More
Federal Office of Rural Health Policy:
Rural Community Programs
Grant funding opportunities for a variety of rural health issues, including network development.
Organization(s): Federal Office of Rural Health Policy
Structure: An Overview
Provides detailed information on how to organize a coalition.
Organization(s): Community Tool Box
of Rural Health Network
Development and Management
Technical assistance guide for leaders managing networks. It was written with the intention of providing support for developing strong, sustainable collaborations. Appendix A is a sample Memo of Understanding.
Author(s): Bonk, G.
the Use of Knowledge in Policy and Practice: Knowledge Networks
Introduces the concept of knowledge network and discusses the differences between formal and informal networks.
Organization(s): Alliance for Health Policy and System Research, Council on Health Research for Development, Global Forum for Health Research
Health Network Development: Public Policy Issues and State Initiatives
Article outlining the importance of identifying a formal definition of Rural Health Network so as to lend credibility to the work they're doing and significantly improve rural healthcare.
Author(s): Casey, M., Wellever, A., & Moscovice, I.
Organization: University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center