Sustainability of Networks

Reviewing the MSc thesis my colleagues and I did in BTH I realised I did not specifically written/shared what so far has been for me one of the most influential knowledge regarding the sustainability of networks. The original source is this article by Ulanowicz et al. 2008. Basically they quantified (defined) the sustainability of networks from an ecological standpoint. Here an extract of the content of the article from my thesis:

“ From complex networks, ecology theory and using fundamental calculus of Information Theory (IT), a paper presented the sustainability of a network in terms of robustness determined by two attributes: the efficiency (ascendency) understood as the capacity to process flow, and resilience (reserves) as the capacity to adapt to changes (Ulanowicz et al. 2008). The authors of the paper clearly present the dynamics of this dialectic interaction as highly complex whilst clearly stating that “systems with either vanishingly small ascendency or insignificant reserves are destined to perish before long…”. The study also argues that the same mathematical models can measure the domain or area of robust balance delimited by a “window of vitality” that circumscribes sustainable behaviour in a network. Two vectors determined this area where the robustness of the network is high; the number of connections of the nodes in the networks and the diversity of their roles (Ulanowicz et al. 2008).”

Window of vitality

Window of Vitaly, Ulanowicz et al. 2008

Translated to design, a sustainable service system will then be: efficient (lowest energy use) in what it processes, in this case the provision of value, and resilient, here referring to the capacity of the network to adapt to changes in the socio-ecological system. These two attributes will be determined by having nodes, in this case stakeholders who: are well connected, e.g. share information and resources, and have a diverse range of roles, e.g. competencies. In the academic paper, for the biologic system was found that optimal balance ‘window of vitality’ between connection of the nodes and their roles was 3. I did not find any study supporting that number for socio-economical networks though.

In any case, I would love to hear your thoughts on that. In my opinion, it makes so much sense.

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