Issue networks are a coalition of interest groups and people who join together to advocate for a specific problem and for changing a government policy that pertains to that problem. These networks exist nationally and internationally. The alliances created through this type of network make it possible for people to join together on their issue to create change in government policies that pertain to that issue.
Individuals in the United States who are members of issue networks usually are political executives, government officials, public servants, scholarly analysts, reporters, members of foundations and White House staff members. Having people from different professions is essential for this type of network to function, because many types of expertise are needed to change existing policy. These diverse groups of people then work toward changing the way that certain bureaus function.
Issue coalitions are made necessary by the way that bureaucracies function. Red tape, policies, procedures and regulations are all in place in any bureau that is responsible for implementing legislation. This makes progress and change extremely difficult in these government agencies. For change to take place, outside forces must push on all of these preset regulations before any advancement is made.
Existing issue networks include those that work on controversial issues such as abortion, gun control and drug legislation. There also are less controversial ones that work on issues such as environmental protection and world hunger. Many of these networks rely heavily on the Internet, because it enables them to organize information and people in a convenient, cost-effective way.
Iron triangles are similar to issue networks because they also work for change on particular issues. Iron triangles are composed of people from the same agencies that create issue networks, but they are working toward a far different goal. Issue networks work for what they perceive to be the common good, and iron triangles focus only on private interests.
Iron triangles and issue networks compete with each other. This competition is important in order to maintain the balance between private and public interests. An example of this competition is when iron triangles who work for oil companies want less environmental regulation, in order to decrease their costs, while issue networks work for more environmental regulation of oil companies, in order to protect the environment.