The Bridges Network Approach
The Bridges Network Approach (BNA) works to influence increased care and cooperation at community and organisational levels, while addressing complex social issues.
It provides frameworks to address issues, such as alcohol and other drug issues, through connecting people and organisations, focusing on strengths and underlying causes, and maximising the use of resources.
Bridges has used the BNA to facilitate inclusion of marginalised groups and organisations. This has included Indigenous groups such as Mt Druitt Indigenous Church.
It is a model that encourages participation, initiative and leadership at all levels. This includes leadership by community members and by small community organisations as well as large organisations.
2010 BNA Report
Bridges, while collaborating with many other people and organisations, has developed and implemented the BNA . The way Bridges, as a small community organisation, has led this collaborative effort, is itself, a demonstration of the Bridges Network Approach. The BNA guides Bridges’ activities.
An example of use of the BNA by other organisations, includes the Centre for Volunteering's Skilled Diversity Project that uses the BNA to support a collaborative environment for participating organisations to engage highly skilled culturally diverse volunteers.
The BNA invites service providers to ask themselves "To what degree can I use my own and my organisation's time, energy and resources to strengthen the network while also strengthening my organisation". Similarly, the BNA encourages individuals to ask themselves "How much energy can I put into strengthening the community at the same time as doing the best for my family?". The BNA emphasises systems thinking, understanding and collaboration at individual, community and organisational levels.
Many of the ideas that make up the BNA are not new. The BNA builds on existing and well-understood principles of strengths-based, collaborative, networked systems thinking which are widely used in the community sector and beyond. What makes it distinctive is (a) the way particular ideas have come together and (b) the demonstration of the use of these ideas by Bridges (while on a small and insecure financial base) and our partners over many years to influence change at multiple levels.
The BNA is a philosophy and working paradigm for social change more than a set of techniques. At the same time, the BNA provides frameworks for enhancing collaborative strategies for service delivery, community capacity building and network development.
The BNA’s strategies can be organised under four themes, though the boundaries between the themes overlap and the strategies are interconnected.
The above themes apply whether we are considering community issues or organisational issues.
The BNA has guided Bridges in our work in addressing alcohol and other drug issues contextually; in Bridges' lead role in establishing Voice for Song to raise the profile and bring increased support for small community organisations; and in changing Bridges' own context for our survival and development as an organisation .
tttttttThe BNA is a values-based model that promotes inclusiveness, cooperation, community engagement, believing in and building on the strengths of people and communities, recognition of family and community context of issues, the value of small and local working with larger organisations, power sharing and distribution, and optimism around positive social change. These values are a long-established part of how Bridges has operated for many years. Many other individuals and organisations share this philosophy.
The BNA promotes the sharing of resources to a high degree to enable synergies to do more for less, and produce more innovative programs reaching more people. It enables people and organisations to have big visions, with big potential for systemic change. It is a replicable model for addressing social issues. It can be used to link with networks to facilitate communities to be pro-active and develop new solutions for addressing challenges we face.
As a social innovation , the BNA works to change systems, contexts and structures that contribute to social problems.