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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

Networking Issues and Challenges

Roger Drew, Projects Director, Family AIDS Caring Trust, Zimbabwe, has been involved in several AIDS networks in the Southern African region. This article presents the authors assessment of key factors which influence network development and the dynamics between network members.

How can we define a successful network? Perhaps as one that it is seen to be of benefit to its major stakeholders. These would include members, funders and regulatory bodies such as government. What challenges might a network face in trying to achieve this?

Differing Visions

A network will face problems if the stakeholders have differing visions for it. For example, the funders might see the network as an advocate with government whereas the members want it to raise funds for their individual organisations. Often the vision is not clearly articulated. Each stakeholder simply assumes that the other shares their vision!

Networks should identify their key stakeholders and what their vision for the network is. A network will only succeed if it has a well-focused vision to which all the stakeholders agree. Networks should restrict their stakeholders to people who share their agreed vision. This may involve refusing some resources and/or limiting membership. Having a clear vision will avoid stakeholders having unrealistic expectations of the network.

Dealing with Conflict

Conflicts may occur within a network for a number of reasons. Competitive relationships between members and inter-organisational “politics” may affect the network adversely. Decisions may be made for politically expedient reasons rather than with a view to making the network more effective.

Examples of decisions which may be influenced in this way include location of secretariat offices, choice of sites for workshops/conferences, representation on the decision-making body, etc.

There needs to be a way of dealing with conflicts within the network. However, at times, the problem may be something that is larger than the network itself.


Communication is a major challenge to all networks, particularly when distances between stakeholders are very great and communicational infrastructure is very poor. As one of the major goals of many networks is to improve information exchange, there is a need to give this issue special attention. Particular issues to be considered are:

frequency, content and quality of newsletters
frequency and purpose of meetings
sub-divisions of the network into geographical localities
programmes to improve communication infrastructure


Problems will arise if key stakeholders feel that they are excluded from the decision-making process. Different processes may work for different networks and for the same network at different times. It is important that the process be clearly defined and reviewed periodically.


Finances affect networks in a number of important ways. First, networks need financial resources to function. These may be sourced from members themselves or from an external body. It needs to be recognised that the organization providing funds will have a powerful voice in the dealings of the network. As a result networks should choose their funders carefully.

Secondly, in resource poor settings, organisations and individuals may be attracted to networks in order to benefit financially. Failure to recognize this may result in frustration and unmet expectations.

Finally, networks need to establish systems for handling finances. This may be difficult as the network has other priorities and people involved in networks may lack management skills. Failure to do so may result in financial mismanagement or fraud. Networks using donated funds may face very high expectations from donors in this area.

Management of Change

Networks do not remain static. They change as do the situations in which they operate. A successful network will be able to adapt to changing internal and external environments.

One of the major changes experienced by a network is when it employs its first member of staff. This is usually motivated by a recognition that volunteers are unable to cope with the increasing workload. However, in most cases the workload on volunteers actually increases when staff are first employed and the nature of the work changes. If volunteers are unprepared for this the result can be disastrous. Inadequate thought is often given to conditions of service and related issues. The respective roles of volunteer committee and staff members need to be defined.