Purpose-oriented networks - often referred to as goal-directed networks - are a widely recognized empirical phenomenon in the public administration and management literatures. However, there is no systematic understanding about which characteristics are constitutive for these entities to be present. We use Goetz's multilevel concept to develop a conceptual framework for purpose-oriented networks that includes four constitutive dimensions: purpose, joint effort, membership, and governance. Then we classify existing literature into this framework. Constitutive dimensions allow scholars to operationalize concepts and develop hypotheses that are testable across a wider range of purpose-oriented networks, better define the external validity of results, and improve the accumulation of knowledge across disciplinary perspectives as well as to point to areas in need of more study. We conclude that the fundamental concepts that constitute purpose-oriented networks are dangerously understudied and are in dire need of systematic, sustained empirical attention.