Networks of people and resources

Networks of people and resources

Networks are one of the 10 key characteristics of a social movement and play a key role in connecting change agents to one another to support evidence uptake and sustainability. In this section, you will learn about networks as a source of social capital and what makes networks effective in social movements.

What is the key characteristic ‘Networks of people and resources’? 

Social movement networks act as essential structures supporting the connections between groups of individuals and agencies (e.g., communities, organizations, or governments) engaged in a shared concern or a strongly desired change.

Networks in social movements are fluid, such that the membership of individuals, groups, and/or organizations evolve and vary over time as the social movement develops. They can organize quickly with a shared alliance, but can also rapidly unravel due to a variety of factors (such as disagreements or the shared concern or desired change becoming irrelevant) (Katcher, 2010). 

Networks can be either formal or informal structures:

Formal networks Informal networks

Hierarchical structures with expectations and obligations written in documents such as agreements or contracts.

Membership is based on established criteria.

Can use its power to influence members and the change.

Flexible boundaries with voluntary membership and commitment.

Lacks written obligations, formal structures, or hierarchy.

Optimally includes key influencers who, as change agents are centrally positioned, have access to information and support, and are highly connected to others.

Requires trusting relationships, cohesion and continued commitment to network members.

SOURCES: Battilana & Casciaro, 2013; del Castillo et al., 2016; Katcher, 2010.