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Network Evaluation

Aside from evaluating the programming implemented by a network, it is important to assess how effectively and efficiently the network functions. This self-assessment should be conducted regularly to determine, for example, that the network has:

  • The right partners involved and they are fully engaged in its mission
  • Has a governing structure that is inclusive and answerable to its members
  • Has a committable plan for sustaining the network financially and otherwise into the future

In addition to process-oriented data collection on network effectiveness (for example, number of services provided, number of trainings offered), most evaluations of networks will also involve surveying or interviewing network members, clients, and/or partners on their perceptions of the network. The questions asked will vary depending on the developmental stage of the network and what aspects are being evaluated.

For networks that have just started or are at most a year into their development, evaluators will likely be more concerned with process-oriented questions. Measuring network outcomes may be difficult because of the short existence of the organization. Such process-oriented questions may include:

  • Partner mix: Are the right partners involved? Are there partners missing who might be critical to the network's success?
  • Level of engagement: Are partners engaged in the mission/vision of the network and excited by the network's potential?
  • Barriers/Challenges: What has prevented the network from accomplishing goals?
  • Early success: Where has the network seen initial success? What were the elements that led to this success?
  • Governance: Has the network established a governance structure that is both collaborative and receptive to different opinions?
  • Champion: Does the network has a “champion” (for example, a person or organization that is devoted to the continued functioning and sustainability of the network)?

For more mature networks that have sustained themselves for more than a few years, evaluators may change their questions to reflect the changed nature of the network. In addition, evaluators may also be able to measure short- and long-term outcomes associated with network's impacts on both the populations they serve and on the participating organizations and employees. Questions at this stage of development may include:

  • Organizational change: What has been the impact of the network on partner organizations? Have partners changed their behavior because of the efforts of the network? How have organizational relationships developed through the network affected the partnering organizations' operations?
  • Partner mix: Are the right partners still involved? Are there partners missing who might be critical to the network's success?
  • Reach: Has the network been able to reach its intended target population?
  • Membership: Has the network membership expanded beyond its original group? How have these new partners acclimated to involvement in the network?
  • Outcomes: What changes have the network seen or experienced since its inception (for example, changes in policy, changes in the environment)?
  • Efficiency: Were outcomes achieved in a reasonable amount of time and at reasonable cost?

Resources to Learn More

Baldrige Performance Excellence Program
A customer-focused federal change agent that develops and disseminates self-evaluation criteria for organizations to use, in order to improve performance. A number of networks have used the Baldrige self-assessment process to make necessary changes in order to improve their performance.
Organization(s): National Institute of Standards and Technology

Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact
Document, Video/Multimedia
A downloadable guide to conducting collective impact evaluation with sample questionnaires, tools, and measures. Includes a 90-minute webinar walking through the guide.
Organization(s): FSG

Health Information Technology Network Readiness Assessment
A self-assessment instrument designed for HIT networks to use in order to determine organizational strengths and weaknesses.
Organization(s): National Rural Health Resource Center

Knowledge Sharing and Evaluating Communities
A 6-minute video that gives an overview of how to approach developing an evaluation plan and how to identify what can be measured.
Organization(s): KM Impact
Date: 6/2011

Tools and Strategies for Managing Health Networks – Network Evaluation
A series of presentations from representatives from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy that go over suggested strategies for networks to adopt for quality improvement
Organization(s): National Collaborative of Health Networks

Tools to Evaluate Your Coalition
A series of tools to measure evaluation of networks and coalitions at various stages of development
Author(s): Topaloff, A., Enderton, A., & Bregendahl, C.
Organization(s): Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
Date: 12/2015