Brief Description

A Knowledge Network consists of a group of people who provide each other with and share implicit and explicit knowledge and skills and develop them further. This happens through a variety of channels and different kinds of contacts: specific one to one interactions via Email, Phone and Skype or in conferences and other events, or unspecific interactions amongst a larger group through forum discussions, documents, profiles and ratings that are put on the net, or through information carriers such as e.g. newsletters. Despite of this multitude and variety any knowledge network first and foremost functions based on personal contacts, private and professional ones that accumulate over the years and are carefully fostered and kept alive. A necessary precondition is a common (area of) interest of the stakeholders. This area of interest is often delineated in rather general terms (mountain agriculture) because a Knowledge Network it is not only about exchange amongst colleagues but also about getting access to a maximum spectrum of knowledge(bearers) and skills for all eventualities. The benefit of a network increases more than proportionally with the number of persons involved in it.

Networks and Communities of Practice (CoPs) are both specific forms of cooperation. Whereas networks represent interests, agendas and resources of organizations, CoPs are more driven by individuals and their personal priorities. CoPs are involving a sense of common identity and purpose, a sense of belonging; networks are more topic- and interest-oriented forms.
CoPs may develop into networks and vice versa. The CoP à Network dynamism represents the formalization or institutionalization of an “informal” initiative. The Network à CoP dynamism represents the need to leave organizational logics and procedures in order e.g. to be creative and innovative.

(Source SDC Learning&Networking)


(if applicable)

When to use

Networks are THE tool for knowledge sharing within and across organizations.

How to use

There are various elements around supporting networks that a network focal point or facilitator of a network should think about. Below is a visualisation of some key elements or tasks that often arise. The five elements on the right hand side (i.e. on the dark blue background) illustrate the linked elements of supporting networks online, while the two elements on the left (i.e. light blue background) focus more on related face to face moments that might shape a network.
(Source SDC Learning&Networking)

Tips and Lessons Learnt

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  • Informal participation and organization, no hierarchic structures,
  • the larger a network, the more important a motivated facilitator who stimulates and accompanies activities striving
  • for active interactions and involvement of all, a minimal budget that allows to conduct the above mentioned activities and facilitation in a professional way,
  • integrate and make use of already existing networks as best as possible,
  • in order to be useful for poor and disadvantaged people, special measures are needed to integrate them.

Examples & Stories

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Who can tell me more?

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Related Methods / Tools / Practices



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