Shared values are the basis for successful cooperation in networks. They provide the actors with important guidelines, drive their actions and thus make a significant contribution to achieving goals.

Uniting different priorities

The point of shared values is primarily that all participants work towards a common goal. It is important that the values are not “imposed” by the network leadership, but are jointly developed. The equal participation of all actors is essential. It is also clear that different people assign different priorities to their individual values: For one person, individual guidelines for action are more important than for another, and vice versa. In order to define common values, a compromise must be found which all actors feel connected with.

Brainstorming as a helpful method

In order to successfully define common values, good facilitation is needed to structure the brainstorming process. One way of brainstorming is to compile which challenges arise in the context of networking and which characteristics and behaviors are necessary to master them. Another variation is to consider what aspects are particularly important in the network and make it unique. These two strategies can help to develop relevant values for the joint network work. The values should be memorable, binding and unique and should be translatable into clear instructions for action.

Keep the target group in mind

During the process of defining values, the target group of the network should not be ignored. It provides helpful orientation with regard to fields of action and goals of the network’s work. The values found should thus also be carried outwards and send out a corresponding message to the respective target group.

Values must be lived

The defined values must also find their way into everyday life and be lived in the network. Only in this way they can be credible and support working towards a common goal. For this to happen, the values must be communicated as a matter of course and be known to all actors. For example, they could be repeated at the beginning of regular network meetings. Also, a possibility to openly discuss values and to give feedback should be created. Over the years, changes in the definition of values may also be necessary under certain conditions, for example if the goals of the network have changed.