Last year I did an online course on Developing Effective Networks for Change and Improvement #DEN4CI delivered by Source for Networks and London South Bank University. Here I want to highlight the resources available on the website and the course that you might find useful in your networks.

Before applying for the course I knew about Source for Networks (S4N) but wasn’t familiar with the full content of the website.

Why have networks? Networks are groups of interconnected people with a shared common purpose. They are often creative and innovative, affording rapid learning and development and are generally more effective than people working alone.

Source4Networks is a free platform committed to curating and sharing the most comprehensive and best knowledge about network leadership in health, social care and charities. They provide tools and resources and help to make connections to improve the health of your network.
Stronger networks result in better outcomes.

Source for Networks is funded by the Sustainable Improvement Team at NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The website consists of:

• A platform to put your network on. You can join or create a network when you register for an account.
Learning Space and Resources - This section of the website brings together all the evidence about networks and how they work. There is a series of articles, that provide you with the theory and approaches that work. You can find case studies in the resources section which bring these theories and ideas to life.
Diagnostics Tools: Core Questionnaire, Network Maturity Model, The Network Health Scorecard. S4C have developed a dynamic set of tools for you to use with your network, to understand how your network is developing and where you and your colleagues need to focus your attention and effort, to ensure that you have the best chance of achieving your purpose and aims.
The LENs network/S4N Community - Here you can join the conversation, get support and share experience.

NB. You need to register to access some of the above, it’s free.

If you are on Twitter they are well worth a follow @source4networks #s4n

There is also some useful knowledge management material related to networks on there - including knowledge cafes and randomised coffee trials which were mentioned in the course - including the NHS Knowledge Mobilisation Framework Postcards.

S4N regularly run webinars. I took part in one recently on ‘Cooking Up a Community of Practice’ – based on Chris Collison’s work using the analogy of cooking a paella – which covered how to set up, manage and develop a community of practice. The idea is that a network is prepared, spiced-up, kept warm, arranged, served and celebrated.


Developing Effective Networks for Change and Improvement
DEN4CI is a free online course for people involved in leading and facilitating networks for change and improvement in health and care. The 11-week course provides the ‘building blocks’ to develop and sustain your network, so that it can deliver real change and improvement for patients and the public. The course ran from February to May 2019.

The course includes:

Module 1 Network Purpose and Function
Module 2 Engaging Your Network Members
Module 3 Creating Value and Impact for your Network
Module 4 Network Sustainability

In addition there were two live ‘ask the expert’ webinars to support you in applying the tools and learning within your network and two self-directed coaching circle sessions using action-learning approaches. Plus access to the three evidence-based diagnostic tools described above and access to the LeNs community – a community of fellow network leaders and facilitators in health and care to share insights and offer peer support to sustain your network development journey.

You can work at your own pace. Around eight hours a module is needed. You’ll also need time to start using the diagnostic tools - this was the biggest challenge for me. It’s also got to be the right time for your network.

The course is designed to help people, however mature, strong, and viable their network is. Resources such as the ‘diagnostic’ tools can help network leaders and facilitators understand where challenges may lie and what they can do to overcome them.

What I gained from the DEN4CI Programme

When I started the course I was actively involved in three networks. For me, there was a huge amount of useful learning but the key things that resonated with me were:
• Different types of networks, in particular the difference between networks and communities of practice, project groups and hierarchical networks
• The importance of clarifying network purpose at the start
• Features of effective networks and different roles of network members
• When to close a network that has met its purpose or just isn’t meeting a purpose – It’s ok to do this, it’s not a failure.
• Sustaining your network and network maturity
• Demonstrating impact and value of your network

Following the course we were asked if we wanted to volunteer for a randomised coffee trial or Coffee Fika as they call it (from the Swedish name for a coffee break). So far I have done two, both via phone. I have found them useful to network with people and hear about their work with networks; in particular being able to discuss issues with networks and help each other by sharing our own experiences. After the course I came away with a plan to develop the network and gain impact. I think I was the only Librarian/Knowledge Manager on the course. There was a wide mix of representation from NHS organisations including national organisations and Trusts and some international representation. There was a lot of participation from those involved in primary care networks.

Source for Networks are planning to run DEN4CI again in the Autumn, I would highly recommend it if you are involved in leading or facilitating networks.


Caroline Storer
Knowledge Manager, NHS Digital