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Network Effectiveness in Context (WP-21-35)

Michelle Shumate, Shaun Dougherty, Joshua-Paul Miles, Anne-Marie Boyer, Rong Wang, Zachary Gibson, and Katherine Cooper

Increasingly, scholars and practitioners are interested in evaluating the effectiveness of cross-sector networks. The authors use a configuration approach to the study of network effectiveness. This research is a mixed-method study of 26 education networks in the United States. The researchers measure network effectiveness by comparing fourth-grade literacy, eighth-grade literacy, and high-school graduation rates. They compare these scores with all school districts in the state using interrupted time series or parametric difference-in-differences approaches. Then, drawing from qualitative data from interviews and archives, they investigate the network governance, environmental characteristics, and theories of change associated with greater student achievement. Using fuzzyset qualitative comparative analysis, they find three configurations associated with network effectiveness. One configuration associated with network effectiveness is to combine learning and systems alignment theories of change. A second configuration combines decentralized governance with a project theory of change. The final configuration combines decentralized governance, learning theory of change, high community poverty, and larger network size. The results support the configurational approach, which suggests multiple configurations of factors in combination may result in network effectiveness.

Michelle Shumate, Delaney Family University Research Professor, Communication Studies, and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

Shaun Dougherty, Associate Professor of Public Policy & Education, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vanderbilt University

Joshua-Paul Miles, School of Communication, Northwestern University

Anne-Marie Boyer, School of Communication, Northwestern University

Rong Wang, Assistant Professor of Communication, University of Kentucky

Zachary Gibson, Technology and Social Behavior Program, Northwestern University

Katherine Cooper, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, DePaul University

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