18. Network mapping
To provide the stakeholders with a visual appraisal of their situation in the policy network and identify ways of strengthening those connections that are considered important for effective policy implementation.
One of the main effects of an INSPIRED dialogue process consists in broadening and strengthening existing policy networks, which can be defined as flexible structures that link a diversity of actors (organizations and institutions, as well as individuals) who share common goals, interests or values. Considering their growing importance for public management –they embody a new paradigm of public action–, as well as the many advantages that they bring to policy making through horizontal collaboration, policy networks have become a crucial means to address complex problems and ensure the feasibility and sustainability of the solutions proposed.
However, working with networks requires a change of mindset for many stakeholders, especially public ones, who need to move from attitudes of control and concentration of power to another of openness and collaboration. This is not always easy for institutions and public bodies that remain strongly hierarchical, but can be nevertheless achieved by raising their awareness about the increased impact and exponential outreach of their own actions whenever they are channelled and promoted through coordinated networks.
One of the most effective means of raising such awareness is through depicting the policy network in a “network graph”: a diagram showing the different actors that conform to the network (nodes) and the frequency and intensity of their relations (vectors). This illustration can have an enlightening effect on those actors that are still operating under a “classic administration” approach and foster the kind of horizontal collaboration that is needed to successfully implement the policy reform.
- Increased awareness of the importance of horizontal collaboration to address complex policy issues.
- Realization by the key stakeholders of the position that they hold in the policy network and the ways in which they could improve it.
- Identification of bottlenecks/synergies that can be addressed/ promoted through the dialogue process.
- Opportunities to build linkages with other similar networks operating internationally.