Writing Net-centric Proposals

Network connector by smswigart on Flickr.

Updated November 16 to reflect link to the manifesto for Agile software development, thanks to Kristin Antin.

    For the past few days, I’ve been working on developing a module for our MADskills participants on how to write strong proposals that integrate, rather than simply graft on, digital and social media. Most of the resources I’ve found have been oriented toward grant makers, rather than grant seekers, like J-Lab’s Toolkit for Innovators in Community Media and Grant Making and this month’s conversation (55 min.) with leaders from major US philanthropic foundations about their “experiences with embracing a network mindset, supporting and catalyzing networks, and sharing and investing in network learning.”
    Not finding what I was looking for for grant seekers, I decided to put together a list of characteristics of net-centric proposals, based on our experience over the past four years, including successes and lessons learned through the mistakes we’ve made, including those that stemmed from working with grantmakers or international partners new at designing so-called net-centric programs.
    I’m publishing the list below and would really appreciate feedback and comments on both the usefulness of this information and the content itself. The aim is to produce a grantseeker’s guide to writing netcentric proposals, perhaps in a wiki format so that it can be updated as the field evolves.
    A note: I’m sticking with the term net-centric, as the Wikipedia definition does a good job explaining what I’m after. I don’t like that it has militaristic connotations, though, so if other terms make more sense to you, I’d love to hear them.
    Here’s what I have so far:

    What is a net-centric proposal?

    A net-centric proposal acknowledges and leverages the power of networks to achieve common goals. Characteristics of a net-centric proposal include:

    1. Seeks to connect existing networks and communities of practice, online and offline
    2. Diversifies and strengthens these networks by facilitating meaningful participation in the pursuit of common goals
    3. Implements information and communication technologies for networked communication and collaboration that are appropriate to the local context
    4. Develops with, not for—by engaging stakeholders and constituents in processes early on
    5. Links online activity with offline action, especially through calls to action, publishing URLS on promotional materials, and social media coverage of events
    6. Budgets ample time and money for content creation and community management
    7. Leverages traditional print and broadcast media, when useful, and budgets for marketing and advertising
    8. Is agile and iterative to produce emergent outcomes
    9. Is wary of the impulse to program new networks
    10. Promotes openness, particularly with regard to data, free and open source software, and open licensing
    11. Promotes transparency, particularly with regard to funding sources, decision making, and hidden motives
    12. Guards the privacy, security, and reputations of stakeholders and constituents and operates under the principle of informed consent
    13. Identifies and regularly monitors online and offline indicators
    14. Measures, evaluates, and adjusts constantly
    15. Publishes about successes and failures to pass on lessons learned


    1. Hi Jessica – I think this is a great list of characteristics of a net-centric proposal…it reads to me also as a list of principles and values of community-based human rights work. It encourages me to step up my game!
      I am happy to see a call for AGILE development of tools and resources for the community.
      Also happy to see the call for guarding the privacy, security and reputation of constituents – can we add something about ensuring the budgeting for the implementation and testing of this?
      Would love to continue this conversation – especially on the duty of community managers to identify indicators, measure impact and share information with community members and colleagues…(these indicators and measurements have been difficult to identify for me).
      Thank you for starting this important conversation, Jessica! I look forward to hearing from others.
      Kristin Antin – New Tactics Online Community Builder – http://www.newtactics.org

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