The survival of the commons is closely associated with the potential to find ways to strengthen contemporary management systems, making them more responsive to a number of complexities, like the dynamics of ecosystems and related, but often fragmented, institutions. A discussion on the desirability of finding ways to establish so-called cross-scale linkages has recently been vitalised in the literature. In the same vein, concepts like adaptive management, co-management and adaptive co-management have been discussed. In essence, these ways of organizing management incorporate an implicit assumption about the establishment of social networks and is more closely related to network governance and social network theory, than to political administrative hierarchy. However, so far, attempts to incorporate social network analysis (SNA) in this literature have been rather few, and not particularly elaborate. In this paper, a framework for such an approach will be presented. The framework provides an analytical skeleton for the understanding of joint management and the establishment of cross-scale linkages. The relationships between structural network properties - like density, centrality and heterogeneity - and innovation in adaptive co-management systems are highlighted as important to consider when crafting institutions for natural resource management. The paper makes a theoretical and methodological contribution to the understanding of co-management, and thereby to the survival of the commons.