As Saint-Onge and Armstrong (2004) have noted, the capability to effectively manage complex partnerships is growing in importance as organizations are reconfigured on internally and externally conductive bases. Organizations are becoming more and more involved in complex value-creation networks, where the boundaries between one organization and another become blurred and functions become integrated. This proposed study will show how a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) small school, Metro School in Columbus, Ohio, was built by and continues to operate as an integrated network involving persons from the non-profit sector, school administrative staff, leaders from academia, and members of the greater Columbus community. The intent of this study is to describe and explain the network operations that emerged throughout the development of the school and that now exist during the operation of Metro School. This network analysis thus focuses on lessons learned from the formulation of the Metro concept, its implementation, and the collaborative structure of the network that maintains broader support for the school.
Public administration and policy scholars have raised the issue of treating networks seriously and call for shifting from using the metaphor of the network to real network analysis of public policy and management networks (Hwang and Moon, 2009). The present study examines the structural configurations of the Metro School public management network from a dynamic perspective using qualitative and quantitative data collected during the evaluation study of Metro School in 2008. The qualitative data are represented by the semi-structured interviews with 28 key representatives of 17 organizations involved in the network school project. The quantitative data were gathered by the means of 2-page questionnaires, where each respondent was asked to identify up to 16 individuals that were important in terms of involvement with STEM Network High School. The analysis of triads in the planning and implementation stages of Metro School demonstrates patterns of structural configurations of the network depending on the stage of network development. The Metro school network at the stage of planning exhibited a structural tendency towards hierarchy because of the large number of transitive triads. Analysis of cyclical triads in both project stages points at the impediment of information flow in the network, especially in the implementation stage.
The findings of this study will elucidate just how extensive Metro has integrated into a network with critical individuals filling particularly important roles. Far from being a hierarchical, top-down organization like many schools, Metro was spawned from a small network of critical individuals, expanded into a larger network as the school was being designed, and now operates as a structure with multiple nodes making decisions at the network level. The “take-away” from this project is an in-depth look at how organizations, even traditionally entrenched bureaucracies like schools, are moving away from the standard organization and into post-modern, highly “de-differentiated” and conductive webs, in this case by a network.