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1292415588 Network Strengthen In

1292415588 Network Strengthen In

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Published by: ImprovingSupport on Dec 15, 2010
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Alternative approaches to capacity building – emerging practices abroad
NETWORK STRENGTHENING as an approach to capacity buildingIntroduction
1
: Why networks?
Networks vary substantially in their form, complexity, combination of actors andlifespan. They can function at different levels, for example, at community level,sector-wide, regional, national and/or global.  Networks are increasingly recognizedby development practitioners as an important mechanism for connecting actors andensuring collaboration and co-operation.
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The value of networks is that they offer thepotential to be ‘greater than the sum of their parts’. Networks of third sector organisations can ‘speak with one voice’, be more effective and offer the possibility of more a more co-ordinated and innovative approach to development issues.
“The basic assumption is that a network can mobilise or generate capacity and have a greater impact on change processes than could be achieved by individuals or organisations acting alone.” 
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As a result of this network support and facilitation has become a conscious capacitybuilding intervention.
4
Network characteristics: Challenges for capacity building
Despite this prevailing enthusiasm fort networks, there is a concern that theconceptual frameworks and approaches used to analyse and support capacitydevelopment in networks, most of which are drawn from the organisationaldevelopment literature, are inadequate for understanding and making choices aboutintervention strategies and for evaluating capacity in networks. Providing effectivesupport for civil society networks can be challenging, frustrating and disappointingrather than leading to significant results.
5
Ashman (2005) suggests that a better understanding of networks would lead to more successful capacity buildingoutcomes. The ECDPM research suggests that there is a need to think differentlyabout capacity issues when dealing with networks. This is because of certaincharacteristics of networks:
1
This introductory section is a summary based on the document Taschereau, S. and Bolger, J. (2007)
Networks and capacity (Discussion Paper 58C).
Maastricht: ECDPMhttp://www.ecdpm.org
2
Taschereau, S. and Bolger, J. (2007)
Networks and capacity (Discussion Paper 58C).
Maastricht:ECDPMhttp://www.ecdpm.org
3
Ibid
4
Ibid
5
D.Ashman (2005) Supporting Civil Society networks in International development programmes. AED
1
 
Alternative approaches to capacity building – emerging practices abroad
Complexity 
: networks require the management of complex relationshipsamong independent actors and this requires time to develop trust and nurturerelationships to achieve shared goals and adjust and adapt structure aspurpose changes.
Diversity 
: networks vary in forma and approach from the very informal toformal, this has implications for how networks operate and what capabilitiesthey need.
Volunteerism and commitment 
: networks are generally voluntary associationsbased on ‘social contracts’ they need to mobilise committed talent andrespond to members' needs on an ongoing basis, or risk losing them.Members who contribute their time, knowledge and skills expect to beincluded and involved in decision making.
Fluidity and life cycles
: networks need to be able to adapt their structures,ways of operating and membership over time, at different stages of development different capabilities are needed. This has implications for assessing overall network capacity and for the design of supportiveinterventions.
Informal structuring and power 
: Network managers, capacity builders andfunders need to be able to recognize, mobilize and nurture the power andcapabilities of informal leaders and experienced members throughout thenetwork.
Strengthening networks
The points highlighted above reflect a need to think beyond the design features of individual organisations and organisational development (OD) interventionrepertoires, to models based more on complex, fluid and adaptive systems. ECDPMsuggests that strengthening the capacity of networks requires development of:
A different kind of leadership - distributed, informal, facilitative leadership,capable of nurturing relationships and dealing with complexity.
Capability to rapidly access technical knowledge and experience from diversesources, across institutional and geographical boundaries - and to facilitateexchanges of knowledge and experiences for innovation.
Capability to mobilise, leverage and manage technical, organisational andfinancial contributions from members, as well as from external supporters.
2
 
Alternative approaches to capacity building – emerging practices abroad
Participatory decision-making processes, essential to maintain volunteer engagement and contributions from members.
Structures that are appropriate for the level of capacity required to deliver added value.
Communications, information and knowledge management systems arecritical and challenging, given the diffusion and multiplicity of network sitesand organisations. Fundraising, financial management, monitoring andevaluation and learning systems and mechanisms are also critical for attracting and accounting for resources necessary for the functioning andsustainability of networks.
Capability to capture, articulate and disseminate network results (as addedvalue to members and external constituencies).A number of tools and approaches are available and particularly suited to supportingcapacity utilisation and development of capacity in networks. These include socialmapping; appreciative enquiry; management approaches which have been inspiredby complexity theory; participatory approaches to planning, monitoring andevaluation.ECDPM suggest that good practice principles for supporting capacity development innetworks include:
Avoid 'model network' or blueprint strategies
Engage/accompany the network rather than take over 
Share knowledge rather than rely on an expert-counterpart model or knowledge transfer approach
Invest for the long-term
Rely on participatory approaches to M&E.
3

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