Purpose – This paper, by carrying out a review of the existent literature, tries to answer the question: what is the process an inter-organizational public network undergoes? Design/methodology/approach – First, different linear-sequential network process models proposed by different scholars and disciplines are reviewed. Thereafter, grounded on the existing literature, some basic dimensions are identified, used to compare the different models proposed, highlighting complementarities and contradictions. Findings – Different authors expect contradictory evolutions of the relations between actors along the stages. Complementing linear process models with other types of approaches, e.g. dialectical models, may well synthesize the opposing findings. Originality/value – The gap in knowledge on public network process makes the study of network process both theoretically relevant and significant to practice. The main contribution of the paper is a comparative study of the conceptualizations of the process a network undergoes.