Peer Networking and Community Change: Improving Foundation Practice

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Key points:

  • This article brings together the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 15 years of experience with peer networking— examining through two research studies the process of peer networking and its impact, both with community-based and funder groups.
  • Peer networking helps people with common interests to exchange information, disseminate good practices, and build a leadership structure for work they do together, such as a community change initiative.
  • Casey’s research identified 10 good practices for effective peer networking, as well as 10 challenges that can affect its success; a four-level model was created to provide context for these findings.
  • The research indicates that peer networking can have significant impact for communities and in meeting philanthropic goals, but it is costly and must be carefully structured if it is to be successful.
  • Casey is working to synthesize its peer networking practices into a more strategic framework, and other foundations might use some of its lessons learned to enhance their own practices in this area.

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