Nobody prescribed what a network should do. But we can learn from what they have done in the last 12 months. At least five functions are apparent.

First, as indicated in the previous post, they create a positive sum, the make the whole more than the contribution of the individual parts. This is best exemplified by the food network (more food sourced, less food wasted, more hungry people fed).

Second, they build relationships. This happens within the sector, and between the sector and public systems. The re-imagining networks for example have helped people to ‘put a face to a name’, making it easier to pick up the phone and ask for help. 

Third, the networks have been places where new ideas start. The tech innovations in the food network. The re-imagining networks making help easier to access and more fulfilling to give. 

Fourth, the networks are the places where people find out what’s new. The beginnings of the neighbourhood strategy came at meetings that combined members of the re-imagining networks

Fifth, the networks fulfil a design function, bringing many minds to help shape, learn about, shape and spread a new idea.