Ask ten people what a network is and you will get at least nine different answers...


For some, their network consists of who's in their address book or the pile of calling cards they've collected over the years. Others initially think of those in their professional circle that they can easily call on as needed. You might see your family as a network. Or the village community. Even the society you live in.

There is not one right answer.


In the FAN Approach we are primarily interested in networks that are relevant to an initiative. For this purpose, it is important to distinguish between Action Networks and Social Networks:


A Social Network includes people who influence each other personally.  This can be understood from the perspective of an Observer.

Social Networks are clusters of people related in such a way that they influence each other personally. Behaviour is contagious: your opinion influences the opinions of your friends, and also their friends. As an observer you can study social networks, without opinion or ambition. It does not require conscious action.


An Action Network includes actors related to an initiative.  This is experienced from the perspective of a Player.

Players have a different focus. They want to know who can help them reach their goal.


An Action Network includes all the actors related to an initiative. Who will gain from it? Who should supply something to make it happen? Who are your partners in this endeavour? And who can connect these partners with users and suppliers?[1] Who holds the positions where they can open doors or keep them closed? [2]


All of these actors belong in an action network. This network is defined by the initiator or core network. Other actors may not even know that they are a part of it, and connections may still have to be built. The concept of the Action Network enables us to identify which connections and relations are a priority at any given time.


See also:
The FAN Approach
[1] The Network Analysis
[2] The Triangle of Change
Action Networks at Three levels
Networks, Structures and Systems

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