Sustaining Your Network-Centric Resource

Notes from a network-centric resources online discussion that took place on January 14th, 2020. 

A network-centric resource is a knowledge asset that supports interaction and strengthens the ability of a community or network to exist. They can be a collection of curricula such as IFRC’s Data Playbook, EFF’s Security Education Companion, or events to bring people together like MozFest. Network-Centric Resources are hard and take an incredibly long time to develop and get right. Funders are often only invested until launch and then expect that a network or community will maintain and improve it on their own. Sustainability is about sharing ownership with the community and network and having clarity on what that takes. A read of the Life-Cycle of a Network-Centric Resource will help

Keep in mind from the beginning that people are your network! Sustainability of those individuals and their contributions will need your greatest attention. While the content of your resource is valuable, ultimately, what is useful to the network is the knowledge exchange between individuals. How does your resource support and facilitate that exchange? Perhaps a better frame for creating a valuable resource is “People Library.”

Does the content within your resource drive connections between individuals within the network? Instead of focusing on content, it might be better to build an understanding of how knowledge exchange happens that serves the needs of a community. To achieve all this, you must be focused not just on the sustainability of your resource but how it contributes to the long-term goals and aims of the network and communities.

As you begin:

  • Accept that the journey (the creation of a guide/resource) may be more valuable long-term than the resource itself. It builds expertise, confidence, and visibility for the co-creators. The guide itself will have a limited shelf life or may even duplicate existing work at some level, but the people investment is forever. (Jon)
  • Listen to your network to co-create with partners and adapt to the local context
  • Community co-creation/federated design, open licensing, welcoming, inclusive language, & practices that provide multiple pathways to contribute to (and use) the resource & engage w/ its community.
  • Build your resource with resilience from the start. If key contributors or funding becomes unavailable tomorrow, what happens to the community and the work that’s been done today? Reflect on the “Death” and “Afterlife” phases from The Life-cycle of a Network-Centric Resource as you make initial decisions of how and where you build it (Jon)
  • Take the time to build it right to be successful in the long term – Design and sustainability
  • Stakeholder engagement (broader than just your end-user or your immediate partners) before and continuously during community/network-centric resources co-creation – will be valuable in understanding the needs, impact, and usefulness of your resources, and will help to produce better resources overall. (Bao Han)
  • Prioritise learning systems and processes (at individual and network/org level)

After you’ve released the first draft

  • Utilise accessible platforms that allow folks to easily contribute/provide feedback
  • Think about identity, what kind of individual and network identity and roles are you co-creating? How will this shift and change over time?
  • Know your audience well and pitch it at the right level! It’s okay to say no
  • On maintenance, plan not to do it alone. Don’t do it alone! Find ways of sharing tasks.

After you’ve published or launched a V1

  • Continue to connect with those in your network (we assign a national coordination staff person to each partner to keep up to date on what they are doing and to touch base with them regularly). (Camille)
  • Make specific asks of specific staff to build their investments in the network (when an organisation is struggling with an issue, connect them with the leader of another organisation who has had a similar issue and request they chat about what worked for them; make specific asks of junior staff members to present to build buy-in). (Camille)
  • Think about who is excluded from your network or community that might provide valuable expertise/knowledge
  • Take time to connect in real life every once in a while (Neil)

As your resource matures:

  • Reflect regularly on whether /how the resource is still useful (involving members of the network in this reflection too)
  • Wellbeing is important! Find ways of keeping the wellbeing of those in your network in mind – avoid burnout

Relevant links that were shared

Here’s the video from the discussion


We are grateful to Jon Camfield, Director, Global Technology Strategy, Internews for suggesting the topic for this online discussion. Along with Jon, Chloé Mikolajczak, The Restart Project and Chad Sansing, Practice Lead, Open Culture & Curriculum, Mozilla Foundation were a big help leading the small group breakouts. Along with, Madeleine Maxwell, Research Manager, The Engine Room, took awesome notes.

Participating and contributing wisdom in the small groups and large group discussion were: 

  • Al Walid Chennoufi, Project manager, HURIDOCS.  
  • Ashley Fowler, Internews,  
  • Bao Han, The Global Standard for CSO Accountability, 
  • Belen Giaquinta,  CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation. 
  • Bob Gradeck – project director of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center at the University of Pittsburgh, 
  • Camille Anoll, Research Analyst, Urban Institute,
  • Francesca Martonffy, Senior Networks Advisor, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation; 
  • Karen Lam, Consultant at The Social Change Agency and Network manager for Losing Control, 
  • Neil Planchon, Foundation for Intentional Community (FIC) Fundraiser, NTEN Oakland & CiviCRM SF Bay Area Community Convener, Cohousing Research Network Communications, Life Coach, Connector. 
  • Paul Colley, researcher at the intersection of voluntary & community sector and psychotherapy.