This paper aims to report "positively deviant" experiences of three public sector networks seeking to enhance organizational and system level capacities. It is the authors' thesis that the knowledge base concerning the true benefits and pitfalls of networks can be captured and interpreted only through intense, ongoing learning effort embedded in practice on the ground, combined with sustained in-depth observation and collaborative research.
The paper describes through case examples why and how different kinds of networks within different jurisdictional contexts and different organizational cultures are being used to enhance the climate for change towards better health care and improved health. The authors describe the contexts, structures, processes and impacts of three "positively deviant" networks.
The network form can provide opportunity for nurturing changes and innovations within large organizational and complex system environments. This opportunity to create additional and different pathways for improved decision making and service provision comes with challenges that should be recognized.
The authors' experiences indicate that, for networks, a key component of success relates to pulling and pushing at the edges of multiple connections and boundaries in "positively deviant" ways. This pushing and pulling is intrinsically evidence of organizational and intraorganizational learning--in the examples presented--for the improvement of health care and health.
Other networks can learn from the reported experiences and add their own cases to the empirical understanding of how networks can make a difference; this in turn can help the conceptual and theoretical understanding of them.