Networks can be seen as living organisms, with a life cycle:

  • They can be healthy or sick.
  • They reproduce themselves through patterns of interaction, as long as all the essential elements are connected.
  • As they evolve, they develop task division and specialisation.
  • In a coherent network there is synergy; it is more than the sum of its parts.


Every network is a node in a larger network. Likewise, each node within a network is also a network in itself. From this perspective, networks are a way of conceptualising society. Organisations, projects, families and village communities are all networks, each with their own characteristics. (See Networks at 3 Levels)

Patterns are always present in living systems, whether constructive or destructive.

In a healthy network the interaction is rewarding. This encourages people to align with others and put in effort, which in turn makes the interaction more rewarding. As trust grows, the network develops higher levels of coherence, gaining strength and greater ability to respond to its environment.

The reverse can happen as well. When interaction is not rewarding, willingness to put in effort or align decreases. This is a spiralling process, which leads to either chaos or stagnation, and can result in the eventual dissolution of the network.

Connection is Crucial to Healthy Networks.

Contemporary human society is one point in an evolutionary process of billions of years. Humans have been living together for millions of years. The mechanisms through which we keep our societies healthy developed much earlier than the few thousands of years ago that we started reasoning with rational logic.

We frequently feel what we have to do, long before we have reasoned why. This is how intuition works. If we are connected to our environment, then we are part of the organic mechanisms that maintain health in living structures. We feel instinctively when something isn’t right and are inclined to act. Effective networkers follow their intuition.

Models should never replace intuition (this is also true for the models of the FAN Approach). However, we are never fully connected, and we are all scarred from disappointments and traumas which we encounter in life. Furthermore, our repertoire of appropriate responses to situations may be limited.

To improve your networking skills it is useful to sharpen your intuition. You can do this by learning how to recognise patterns and increase your repertoire of possible actions in response to what is at stake. You can also learn about your own qualities and weaknesses which have developed over time. Responses which helped you to survive previously may not work anymore. Weaknesses you may have struggled with in the past may have turned into strengths due to your focus on them.

It helps to take time for reflection on real life experiences, preferably with peers who can pinpoint things you may have become oblivious to. The FAN approach offers language, models and concepts to discuss what matters in network processes.

An Ecological Approach to Networks is Crucial for the Network Society of Today and Tomorrow.

The evolutionary process seems to have speeded up in an unprecedented way in the last two centuries, and it continues ever faster. The autonomous process of task division and specialisation has reached a point in which the whole world is interconnected. Crises are no longer local or regional but global.

Ecosystems can grow towards higher levels of complexity as long as the feedback mechanisms to keep all the crucial components connected grow along with what this complexity requires. This is what is at stake at this moment.

A financial system governed by people who approach it as a giant casino is not responsive to the needs of a healthy world. The divide between rich and poor is a threat for future stability. Technological and material development which do not respect the cyclic processes which have governed the global ecology since its inception can only lead to disaster.

We can no longer ignore the fact that we live in a connected world, and that our fates are dependant on one another. This requires that we organise our activities to respect the principles of connectedness. It is my hope that the philosophy of Living Networks and the FAN approach for dealing with networks can provide some building blocks to this end.