Why do some neighborhoods appear able to launch effective local improvement initiatives, while others are more hampered by fragmentation and mistrust? Why can some communities mobilize diverse constituencies to influence public policy, while others cannot? Answers to these questions may be found in the specific patterns of collaboration that form among community organizations, and between these groups, schools, public agencies, and elected officials, according to MDRC, a preeminent social-policy research organization.
Network Effectiveness in Neighborhood Collaborations: Learning from the Chicago Community Networks Study
Federal, state, and local policies focused on neighborhood improvement have long emphasized the need for community organizations to share information, coordinate activities, and collaborate in the delivery of services. These partnerships build “community capacity,” as a way of promoting local problem solving and community well-being over the longer term. But there has been almost no formal measurement of how community organizations work together, whether differences in patterns of collaboration and leadership exist across neighborhoods, and how these patterns are influenced by the nature of the problems being addressed.
There has also been only limited research on which patterns of neighborhood networks are most conducive to implementing effective collective work. This report uses social network analysis, drawing from a network survey, and extensive field research to ask how specific patterns of partnership promote better-implemented collaborations that in turn can successfully inform public policy.
The above findings have a qualitative, observable component, making it possible for funders to identify neighborhoods with advantageous structural supports before choosing to invest in that location, and for practitioners to support certain patterns of community activity.
A second report, drawing on a second wave of the study’s survey, will explore how networks changed from 2013 to 2016, and will be released in 2018.