Organizational Networks as Catalysts for Strategic Sustainable Development

In an increasingly connected and interdependent world, the global sustainability challenge needs to be addressed by organizational networks from a whole-systems perspective. This study explores organizations through the lens of network theory and the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development, with a special focus on networks already considering sustainability issues. The purpose of the research was to identify key factors critical to the success of an organizational network in the sustainability field, as well as define specific barriers to success for these networks. These specific factors and barriers to success are identified and explored across: Academic, Business, and Non-Profit sectors, with the ultimate objective of increasing the performance of Emerging Sustainability Networks (ESNs), removing barriers in the field, and planning strategically to achieve success in the sustainability movement.

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Author: Molly Doyle, Dermot Hikisch, Shawn Westcott

Source: Blekinge Institute of Technology


1 Introduction
1.1 Research Context
1.2 Defining a Network
1.2.1 What is a Network?
1.3 Strategic Sustainable Development
1.3.1 Context
1.3.2 The Earth as a System
1.3.3 The Sustainability Principles
1.3.4 Backcasting
1.3.5 Planning: the Five-Level Framework
1.3.6 Strategic Prioritization
1.4 A Proposal for a Sustainability Network Definition
1.5 Rationale
1.6 Research Scope
1.7 Research Questions
2 Methods
2.1 Research Design
2.2 Literature Review
2.3 Interviews
2.4 Case Studies
2.5 Dialogues and Knowledge Integration
2.6 Validity
3 Results
3.1 Assessing the Internal Capacity of Organizational Networks: Critical Success Factors
3.1.1 Vision
3.1.2 Leadership
3.1.3 Resilience
3.1.4 Capacity
3.1.5 Engagement
3.1.6 Network Structure
3.1.7 Communication Tools
3.1.8 Positioning and Leverage
3.1.9 Network Diversity
3.2 External Functioning within the System: Network Barriers to Success
4 Discussion
4.1 Sustainability Networks Today
4.2 Addressing Internal Development: Critical Success Factors in Practice
4.2.1 Utilize Network Structure to Address Complexity
4.2.2 Ensure Organizational Capacity First
4.2.3 Addressing the Engagement Challenge
4.2.4 Network Diversity Supporting ESN Success
4.2.5 Network Positioning in the Field
4.2.6 Critical Success Factors in Practice: Mapping an Emerging Sustainability Network
4.3 Global Network Dynamics
4.3.1 Supporting The Field As A “Network-of-Networks”
4.3.2 Seeing the “Big Picture”: Geographic and Cultural Considerations
4.4 External Functionality: Three Shifts to Drive Sustainable Change
4.4.1 Awareness Within The System
4.4.2 Shared Language For Sustainability
4.4.3 Collaboration Across The Sustainability Field
4.5 Strategic Network Planning towards a Sustainable Society
4.5.1 Practical Application of Research Findings
4.5.2 Application of the Five-Level Planning Model
5 Conclusion
Appendix A: Interview List
Appendix B: Interview Questionnaires
Appendix C: Barrier Identification
Appendix D: The Academic Sector: A Case Study of University Networks for Sustainable Development 1990-2008

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