Is there a recipe for building and sustaining a successful health network? Collaboration and cooperation among NGOs offer tremendous opportunities for achieving results, but also present some unique challenges. This seminar explored the nature and dynamics of networks and discussed creative ways to promote synergies among network members to overcome challenges. This seminar has ended. We invite you to review the resources, discussion, and daily summaries. Read a full seminar summary.
Part 1: May 9 & May 10: The nature of networks
There are many different types of networks in the health arena. For the purpose of this seminar we will focus on voluntary groups of organizations that are:
- socially-constructed and self-organizing,
- have a common purpose, and
- serve the collective and individual needs of their members and clients.
Some networks are well established and funded by international donors, having been created in response to the need for greater coordination and communication among:
- non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
- civil society organizations (CSOs),
- individuals and service providers.
These networks operate on a formal basis with paid staff serving in a secretariat, have foundational documentation, and are bound by reporting requirements. Much of the funding under these arrangements was designed to build the capacity of network members and to complete projects related to the vision and mission of the network, again largely influenced by the donors.
On the other hand, there are networks that are formed by members themselves out of a perceived need, driven by a compelling vision, and based on trust in each other and eagerness to see the network succeed. The members of these networks recognize the need to contribute their time and financial resources in order to ensure success and achieve their vision.
Moving toward sustainability
With the large number of networks, both donor- and volunteer-driven, funding is decreasing and donors are now looking to the networks they support to become self-sustaining. As a result, network managers need to become more entrepreneurial and creative to move toward a financial independence model with members providing the support, rather than relying on donor funding.
The nature of your network
In the next two days we are going to focus on:
- identifying the nature of your own network
- identifying the strengths and challenges your network faces
Strengths and challenges can vary greatly and may be related to:
- management of the membership base
- balance of time/money and effort with perceived benefits
- distribution of leadership responsibilities
- the need to establish an effective governance system
- the best ways in which to maintain internal communications and mobilize resources
Part 1 Resources
We encourage you to read case study #1 and the summary of findings from network literature review before moving on to the questions below.
Part 1 Discussion Questions
Read questions below and prepare to share your experiences and opinions in the forum.
P1Q1 – What strengths and challenges does the network face in the case study?
Read Case Study #1 and think about the level of commitment of network members, the network’s financial situation, and the distribution of leadership and government arrangements.
- Read the literature review document to help you identify the nature of your network
- Think about the nature of your network: the level of commitment of its members, financing, the distribution of leadership and governance structure, etc.
Part 1 Summary
Thank you for an exciting first two days of our seminar! We have enjoyed ‘meeting’ you and learning about the networks you are a part of.
In part 1 we focused on defining networks, and learning to identify their strengths and weaknesses. If you haven’t had a chance, we recommend looking at the resource “Summary of Findings from Network Literature Review” for a great overview of networks and their components.
In looking at case study 1, participants identified the network’s strengths and weaknesses. Both Peter Maina and Oniovokukor Bright pointed out that the size and diversity of the network’s membership were a positive, and others noted the success of training members on MNCH. In terms of the network’s challenge, all the participants agreed that as a donor-driven network, the passive role of members may be a threat to the network’s sustainability. To read through the responses and contribute your own ideas, head to the forum and click on P1Q1.
Turning to question 2, the moderators asked participants to describe their own networks. Shams and Eddah were able to describe experiences based on their involvement in multiple networks, while Felipe Vela, Christine Sadia, spoke about specific networks. The conversation ranged from network size, to activity level, gender distribution in the leadership and beyond. We invite you to share the story of your own network!
On Thursday, we will begin part 2 of our seminar, which will focus on key management areas of network strengthening. We strongly encourage you to read the resource “Sustainable Networks: Overcoming Challenges” so you can be an active participant in these last two days. Also, as in part 1, there will be a case study to work from and you can share how you might use what you’ve learned in order to strengthen your own network.
We are looking forward to two more days of lively conversation!
Lourdes and Susan