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close this bookHIV/AIDS Networking Guide - A comprehensive resource for individuals and organisations who wish to build, strengthen or sustain a network (International Council of AIDS Service Organisations, 1997, 48 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
close this folderAbout This Guide
View the documentWhy This Guide Was Developed
View the documentWhat This Guide Will Do
View the documentWhat This Guide Will Not Do
View the documentHow This Guide Is Organized
close this folderChapter 1 - Networking for a More Effective Response To HIV and AIDS
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentWhat Do We Mean by Networking?
View the documentCharacteristics of a Network
View the documentWhat Are the Benefits of Networking?
View the documentWhy Network?
View the documentNetwork Activities
View the documentOrganizational Features of AIDS Networks
View the documentThe ICASO Story
View the documentPHA Involvement in AIDS Networks
View the documentEnsuring the Inclusion of People with HIV/AIDS In AIDS Networks
View the documentNetworking for Mutual Support
close this folderChapter 2 - Networking: What Makes it Work?
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentEight Steps to Building and Sustaining a Network
View the documentStep one: Prepare a Statement of Purpose
View the documentStep two: Define Goals and Objectives
View the documentExamples of Network Statements of Purpose and Goals
View the documentStep three: Create an Action Plan
View the documentStep four: Establish Ground Rules
View the documentStep five: Define a Decision-Making Process
View the documentStep six: Prepare a Communications Plan
View the documentStep seven: Choose an Organizational Structure
View the documentSome Thoughts on How Networks Organize Themselves
View the documentStep eight: Secure Resources
View the documentCrucial Steps in Network Building
close this folderChapter 3 - Change and Challenges
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentSustaining Commitment
View the documentEvaluation
View the documentLetters of Commitment
View the documentResolving Conflict
View the documentResponding to Conflict
View the documentCommunication
close this folderChapter 4 - Other Networking Issues
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentIssue 1 - Mobilizing Resources
View the documentIssue 2 - Electronic Mail and Networking in AIDS
View the documentPersonal Testimonials: E-mail and Networking
close this folderChapter 5 - Governing Body and Staff Issues in Formalized Networks
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentSelecting a Governing Body
View the documentModels for the Structure of the Governing Body
View the documentModel 1: The Working/Administrative Governing Body
View the documentModel 2: Collective
View the documentTips to Help Distinguish Between the Role of the Governing Body and Staff
View the documentBasic Functions of Governing Bodies
View the documentSample Terms of Reference for a Member of a Governing Body
View the documentTerms of Reference for the Governing Body of an Existing AIDS Network
View the documentDefining the Role of Staff
View the documentJob Description of Network Senior Staff Person
close this folderChapter 6 - Lessons Learned About Networking
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentFactors and Conditions Influencing Networking Dynamics
View the documentWhy Networks Fail
View the documentNetworking Issues and Challenges
View the documentAppendix - International HIV/AIDS Related Networks
View the documentInvitation to comment on the HIV/AIDS Networking Guide

Factors and Conditions Influencing Networking Dynamics

There are countless factors and conditions which influence the dynamics of networking. In preparation for this Guide, we collected a few examples of networking experiences and conditions which reflect various stages of a networks growth. This list of obstacles and challenges illustrate key points and reminders of what makes networks work well, and what puts them at risk

The process of networking is important, including the development of a network culture in which members come to realize an awareness of themselves as part of a group, sharing a common purpose and mutual rights and responsibilities. That culture needs to be acknowledged, supported and nurtured as much as the reasons and content of the network itself because it is about people trying to find a way to work together against a common threat.

Having clear goals is an important condition for a network’s success. It should be noted, however, that few networks, if any, begin life with clearly defined goals. It takes time to build consensus among members on what the goals should be. Accordingly, during the start-up period of a network it is only reasonable to expect some ambiguity in the network’s stated goals. This situation is fine as long as the goals provide a focus for the network’s activities and serve as a reasonable basis for others to join the network. Moreover, during the start-up phase of a network it is important to acknowledge that at this point in the network’s development the goals need to be refined and to encourage the membership to be active in this process.

No network can be all things to all people and all organizations. Be realistic and begin with those who want to participate in a process. Although it is important to be inclusive, it is equally important to remain pragmatic. It can be strategic to begin with a core group of organizations who feel comfortable with the goals and process at the beginning by concentrating your energies and resources on those who do want to work together. Otherwise there is the danger of trying to satisfy everyone, and in the end, the network pleases no one. However, this should not be viewed as a way to exclude organizations that may be more difficult to integrate. Sometimes some organizations just need more time to see the benefits of the network before they commit to it themselves.

Networks may go through phases that reflect a change in members’ interests, changing priorities, or quality of leadership. Differences and disagreements among organizations may become stronger than the common goals that originally brought them together. Networks may weaken or dissolve as a result of these differences. However, this does not always have to be seen as negative: sometimes networks do form and fade away, membership does rise and fall, and goals and objectives do evolve.

Networks need to be flexible. Members will put more effort into a network when it has potential for meeting their needs. It is important to allow for change in network priorities as members’ own priorities change. It is also important to plan for these changes with regular reviews of the mission statement and goals.

It is vital that the network is not in competition with its members. For example, some members may have specific skills and specialties, and their involvement in the network can benefit all members. However, if a network tries to carry out activities, which a member could equally well carry out, it may be in competition with its own members for funds, people, resources and influence. Competition between the network and its members can readily lead to the demise of the network.

Network members need to have a clear understanding of where ownership of the network lies. For instance, members must feel that they are contributing to the ongoing development of the network. If members do not feel that they “own” the network, their commitment to the networking process will be weak.

An egalitarian relationship between members of a network must be maintained. It can be damaging if any one member or group of members dominates to the exclusion of others. Some networks experience problems when the larger members are favoured over the smaller members. Every member needs to feel that their voice is as important as the other members.

Many networks do not have sufficient funds to support an effective administration. In lieu of “hired help”, the expectation is that the networks administrative functions will be undertaken by a volunteer work force. While this idea may be practical in a context where funds are scarce and spare time is a luxury, it doesn’t always work. Volunteers are often busy with their paid jobs and generating incomes, and only get to the voluntary activities when they have time.

A network’s membership, whether individual or institutional, cannot depend solely on support from donors. Those attracted by a network’s potential to assist them with their aims must be prepared to contribute, financially or otherwise, to help it function efficiently and effectively. This is a real test of the networks viability: can it exist, even informally, during the periods when donors or funders are difficult to attract.

Communication is a common problem. Disseminating critical information, answering queries, soliciting input to decision-making and developing collective strategies all take an enormous amount of time. There needs to be a commitment of staff time and funds to cover these communication costs. In addition there is the problem of unreliable communication infrastructures, e.g. poor telephone connections, equipment breakdown, and lack of technical support. It may take days to get a message through to an organization, while those on the receiving end may feel they are being left out. Both sides can feel frustrated. Don’t let this discourage you. Building an effective network takes time and patience by everyone.