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Success Story: Networked Improvement Community

What is a Networked Improvement Community?

The R5CC Networked Improvement Community (NIC) helps teams of students, teachers, and education leaders work together to address common problems of practice using implementation science. By identifying and studying problems, developing ways to solve them, and testing those ideas, teams can find effective solutions. Through collaboration, teams are able to tackle systemic challenges in education and scale those solutions across different contexts.

To learn more about NICs and how they can contribute to continuous improvement, explore our interactive and informative learning modules.

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Implementation science examines how to effectively apply ideas in practice and contributes to continuous improvement by identifying barriers, facilitating successful implementation, and promoting ongoing learning and adaptation.

NICs use an 8-step process

  • Step One

    Introduction to a NIC

    A Networked Improvement Community (NIC) begins with a problem of practice. A problem of practice anchors the NIC, establishes a clear direction, and galvanizes collective action toward a common accomplishment. 

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  • Step Two

    Initiate the Team

    Once the problem is identified, one or more network leads initiate a core team of organizational leaders, researchers, context experts, and end users who have specialized expertise and deep experience in the local context. The core team is responsible for launching the network and creating the conditions to maintain its success and sustainability, which include leadership, organization, and operation activities.

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  • Step Three

    Develop a Well-Specified Problem Statement

    After the team is assembled, they work together to develop a well-specified problem statement that is high leverage, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Next, the team explores root causes of the problem of practice to ensure that the problem is in fact the correct focus.

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  • Step Four

    Conduct a Root-Cause Analysis

    A root cause analysis introduces various perspectives, prompts discussion, breaks larger issues into actionable pieces, and informs the development of targeted and measurable outcomes. This will consider:

    • What sequence of events leads to the problem?
    • What conditions allow the problem to occur?
    • What other problems allow the central problem to persist?

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  • Step Five

    Develop a Theory of Action and Logic Model

    Theory of Action

    Identifying the root causes informs the creation of a theory of action with a clear end goal. A theory of action outlines a vision of success for an improvement effort through a series of “if-then” assumptions around high-level actions and relationships.

    Logic Model

    To shift the theory to a concrete and operational plan, the team then creates a logic model to specify the actions, milestones, and outputs needed to achieve desired outcomes. A logic model can also help clarify what is measurable to help teams monitor success and bridge the transition from a theory of action, to developing a measurement infrastructure.

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  • Step Six

    Establish the Measurement Infrastructure

    Next, to systematically track progress the team establishes a measurement infrastructure to ensure that there are systems in place prior to implementation to measure the success of the outcome. Being proactive about measures will help to indicate whether a practice or initiative is providing the intended outcome. The implementation plan includes more details about the participants, their roles, and the actions they will be responsible for conducting. A measurement infrastructure helps to answer:

    • How will we know that the change is working as planned?
    • How will we monitor improvements as they are scaled to new sites over time?

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  • Step Seven

    Implement Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycles

    Plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycles offer a way to test and refine a strategy or intervention prior to scaling it up, using 4 steps:

    1. Create the Plan
    2. Do the Plan
    3. Study the Results
    4. Act on Results

    PDSA cycles can test the effectiveness of a specific policy or practice-based solution to a problem.

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  • Step Eight

    Sustain an Improvement Culture

    Implementing a NIC process allows practitioners to improve practice by learning what works, for whom, and under what conditions. Finally, through iterative practice, the NIC improves individual and collective capacities to achieve and sustain a culture of improvement that provides continuous, strategic, and effective methodologies to address problems and improve upon practice.

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[It’s] that feeling you get when you know we’re all in the same boat, and we are all pushing and moving toward greatness for our kids and greatness for our school divisions. And to me, it’s just a really nice place to be able to talk about challenges with someone outside of [our] division, getting input from them or maybe resources or practices or initiatives that they have going that we can also learn from.

- NIC Member

Facilitator Resources

Interested in forming your own Networked Improvement Community (NIC)? Below is a collection of agendas, facilitation guides, and presentation slides for each step of the NIC’s 8-step process, providing tips and explanations that can lead to building and sustaining a culture of continuous improvement. The resources can be used for face-to-face, virtual, or blended learning environments. For more information, please reach out to the R5CC team at

Establish Teams & Identify the Problem

Developing a Theory of Improvement

Using Disciplined Inquiry to Drive Improvement