Citizen Network Structures

Communities are a system of formal and informal structures. Citizens live their day-to-day lives by navigating horizontal, informal networks. Organizations function vertically.

Informal networks are made up of people who routinely support each other in predictable ways. They function as the means of survival, caretaking and maintaining culture at the grassroots level. They are the “98%-ers” who do not belong to organizations or attend public meetings. Informal networks represent a horizontal organizational structure and tend to be invisible unless sought out.

Vertical organizations have a hierarchical structure and function to advance political, ideological or economic agendas. They are often included in public decision-making because they are more visible and are often the repositories of technical and scientific expertise. Their interests, however, are different than the horizontal systems.

Positive social change occurs when the interests in the informal networks are aligned with the interests of the various institutions who influence a particular community.