At NNSI, we have an ambitious goal – a scary ambitious goal for an academic research lab. But before I get to that, let me explain. We’ve been around eight years. Eight years – we’ve published groundbreaking research on networks for social impact. A sample includes research that:
- shows that collaboration is a lousy way to improve nonprofit capacity,
- demonstrates how to scale-up evidence-based social interventions across interorganizational systems, and
- predicts where collective impact networks are likely to emerge.
In typical academic research terms, we could just keep doing research and publishing it in academic journals.
But that’s left us uneasy. Our vision isn’t just to do innovative research or build the reputation of our academic research lab. We do this research because we are passionate about supporting network leaders. We want leaders to use the best evidence to assemble, manage, and scale networks for social impact.
We’ve been experimenting for several years on how to cross the research-practice divide. We published policy briefs, white papers, written blogs and published trade pieces, and crafted infographics. Here’s the problem – although we were translating the research into accessible bites, it still wasn’t getting to the right place. We learned, through trial and error, that we needed to do something else. Because you see, we still weren’t reaching our goal.
But through these experiments, we found our secret sauce for bridging the gap between research and practice. We’ve committed to investing more in these practices because they work.
- We ask technical assistance and national umbrella organizational leaders to join our advisory board. These individuals can reach hundreds of network leaders, and through their advice – the research that we produce is even more accessible and has a greater reach.
- We partner with networks to conduct research. In a current project, we partner with the AmericaServes networks – no wrong door veterans service networks – to improve their networks’ effectiveness and share those results with health and human service referral networks across the country. Their research team and our research team work together – and we jointly applied and received grant funding to do this work. We meet regularly, conduct the research together, and publish it together.
- We offer both executive coaching for network leaders and custom workshops through our relationship with Social Impact Network Consulting. These sessions provide peace of mind for network leaders who want help applying the best evidence-based insights to their networks to address their unique challenges and context.
We do all of this because we want our research to support social impact leaders’ work. Last year, we set a BIG GOAL: To improve 100 networks’ social impact by 2025. Yes, 100 networks – that’s a lot. We need a critical mass of networks to transform the landscape of how networks for social impact are funded, supported, and managed. These are the networks that have the potential to move the needle on issues that people assume are unsolvable.
We need partners to achieve this goal, and we’ll hope you’ll join us. If you are interested in joining the advisory board, exploring how we can conduct research together, executive coaching, or custom workshops, click on the banner and tell us about yourself. We’ll reach out. We can wait to have a conversation about how we can work together.
Please reach out to us at email@example.com. We would be thrilled to have a conversation about how we can work together.