Network Evaluation in Practice: Approaches and Applications

Published: July 2015

Type: Publication

This Foundation Review article offers a three-pillar framework for evaluating networks focused on network connectivity, health, and results. 

Julia Coffman

Increased activity in network building is yielding new and practical knowledge about effective practices as practitioners and funders report on their insights and struggles. This, in turn, has led to deeper questions:

What are key success factors in building a network? What should funders support when they design network grants? How can network builders and funders tell how well a network is doing?

As more funders support networks as a mechanism for social change, new and practical knowledge is emerging about how to build and support effective networks. Based on extensive review of different types of networks and their evaluations, and on interviews with funders, network practitioners, and evaluation experts, the authors developed an accessible framework for evaluating networks.

This article describes the evaluation framework and its three pillars of network assessment: network connectivity, network health, and network results.

The article also provides case examples of foundation-funded network evaluations focused on each pillar. These cases include practical information on evaluation designs, methods, and results, as well as a final discussion of areas for further attention.