Networks are by no means a panacea for solving intractable problems. We heard many stories of places unable to take advantage of the benefits of network participation due to a lack of local bandwidth and resources, and also the lack of alignment with local organizational priorities. We also heard of “network fatigue” where places were so active on the national stage that their ability to focus and deliver at the local level was diminished.
That said, we also heard that when the challenge is bigger than any one place can solve alone, access to the right resources, tools, and colleagues through a network can be transformative for local practitioners. For example, in less than two years, “three communities in the Built for Zero network have ended chronic homelessness, eight have ended homelessness for veterans, and another 37 communities have driven a reduction in homelessness” using better data and aligning efforts across community stakeholders, confirmed Jake Maguire, Principal at Community Solutions. When the Police Data Initiative was founded in 2015, police departments had never released open data about things like use of force or citizen complaints. Now, the network has more than 140 agencies who collectively have released more than 350 datasets, effectively shifting the culture of policing toward more transparency.