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Cooperation Offices and Networks – Valuable networking: between gaining information and taming the information beast

July 24, 2013 | bit-wartung | SDC Experiences, SDC Networks |

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The crew of the Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO) Moldova is member in several networks of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). They are engaged and sometimes busy absorbing the wealth of information coming from networks. The team has expectations but also a few ideas how to tame the information beast and how to make networking time more valuable.

By Natalia Cernat and the SCO Team Moldova

My further reflections are narrated in the first person but this person has different voices, those of my colleagues: Andrei Cantemir, Valeriu Sava, Radu Dani, Viorica Cretu, Galina Ignat, and myself, Natalia Cernat. We are members of the SDC networks: Water, Health, Migration, Quality Assurance, Finance or Gender.

Photo: NPO’s exchanging opinions on SDC Networks  

How we benefit from the networks

1. Connecting people & changing perspective: I met people from a diversity of contexts and cultures, had access to their publications, life and work experience; I shared mine. I saw unity in their eagerness to become professionally efficient and to contribute to bringing a positive change to their countries. Seeing how others work is motivating and inspiring; it is an invitation to improve our work.

2. Access to specialist knowledge: I saw a pool of brains that think together. When I needed consultants for a project review or assessment, I have always found specialists with the required background. Besides, belonging to a professional community in Water domain makes me feel good. My professional knowledge and understanding of global issues are constantly growing.

3. Networks for precious shortcuts: Faced by a new situation in finance I described it on the F+S network. Someone came up with a helpful answer and a template that I could use. No need to reinvent the wheel. Through the Quality Assurance network connections I received feedbacks for the monitoring matrix of our cooperation strategy and the indicators.

4. Networks trigger new ideas: An e-discussion in the Water network gave me new ideas on water resources management. Solutions were discussed that seemed irrelevant for Moldova. More than in technology, I was interested in the “soft” part: the work with communities on gender equality, tariff setting, water usage efficiency, which is applicable in our water and sanitation projects.

5. Training through networks: The online training in e-billing in the F+S network was a timely and needed support. The answers to our numerous questions have found their place on the virtual classroom blog.

6. Network f2f meetings as learning experience: The f2f of the Gender network 2012 was an unforgettable and useful learning experience. We tried our hands at doing a gender analysis in a small Swiss community. As a result, the mayor got a list of actions for the up-coming local administrative reform to improve gender equality in education, health and governance. Or in the f2f of the Health network I saw creative approaches used in Swiss schools to prevent nutrition-related diseases including the obesity of children.

We have to tame the information beast

I experience networks as vehicle for learning and sharing. I also experience networks as additional burden. Networks add to our information overflow by lengthy emails (maybe not coming at the right moment for my work) or by heavy e-discussions. Sometimes it gets too much. We have to tame the information beast.

The writer Richard Wurman (http://people.lis.illinois.edu/~chip/pubs/03LIA/13-003.pdf) found out that an edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person in 17th century was likely to come across in lifetime.

And this is exactly our big challenge. Being exposed every day to an information overload, we find ourselves negotiating fiercely with our time which stubbornly remains the same.

Option for the way forward

Within the SDC networks the rules of communicating and a smart moderation are crucial to achieve the best within the time limits we have.

In the SCO we need brief information, summaries and links on topics that are relevant to our programmes and work realities.

• We expect less official and less academic exchanges on questions that really matter. We are less scared to raise our questions and to participate in discussions that are more informal.
• Learning about project management, best practices and lessons learned from similar projects is never too much.
• Complement the global discussions with regional sub-networks fostering small group discussions
among colleagues facing similar contextual situations.
• A general database or online library accessible to all would be a great support.

And one last proposal: There are alternatives for too many emails and overfilled email boxes! Twitter and Facebook are popular. One is updated with the world news grasping the subject in a matter of seconds: If you need more hit the link. This could be a great option for an ongoing networked discussion, isn’t it?

What is your experience with network communication and discussion?

This post is the fourth in our series Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO) and SDC networks.

Read the previous posts:

Networking in the far reaches of Mongolia (by Elmer Diepak)
The Pretoria Story (by Reto Wieser)
SCO Gaza and Westbank has all its senses in alert when it comes to Networks!
(by Giancarlo de Picciotto)


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Comments to“Cooperation Offices and Networks – Valuable networking: between gaining information and taming the information beast”


  1. Ernst Bolliger says:

    Dear Natalia Cernat (and colleagues)
    I like in your blog, that you not only speak about the strengths of Networks, but that you also develop ideas on how to tame the information beast.
    I guess, this is one of our heroic battles against modern dragons.
    Thanks. Ernst

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  2. Dear Ernst, thank you for your comment. You are right, it is a battle indeed. But since the “modern dragons” are indispensable in our world, we can win this battle if we succeed to make them work for us, bringing us closer to achieving our goals. Best wishes, Natalia

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  3. Nadia von Holzen says:

    Dear Natalia,
    thank you and the whole the SCO Moldova team for your thoughts. I think you made some very valuable observations regarding network communication. I really appreciate your openness to share your thoughts.
    I was reading this week a blog post on ‘The Future of Social Learning'; it said: “we like to consume short, to the point content that does not waste our time with irrelevant information but instead gives us what we need so we can move on…”. It made me think of you. Here the link to the blog:
    http://socialmediatoday.com/roope-heinil/1630501/future-social-learning
    And I really share your thoughts. We have to work on this. Network communication and collaboration is – should be – about learning, inspiration, innovation leading to better programmes and greater impact; it shouldn’t and cannot be an additional burden.
    Many thanks, Nadia

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  4. Dear SCO Moldova team
    thanks for your valuable forward looking ideas about how to shape network collaboration within SDC. I take with me: share good practice, more informal cooperation and more down to the ground, regional sub-networks (maybe also more often in f2f format??).
    Thank you!
    Franz

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  5. Dear Natalia
    Great blog post! I would like to contribute an insight I heard from Marylaure Crettaz in one of her videos on the Networks (see: http://goo.gl/syC6n – only with access to SDC Intraweb, unfortunately). Towards the end of her 3rd video she is looking for a change in SDC culture of communication: more spontaneous and more horizontal!

    This means probably more emails, but this is off-set by getting a quicker answer to your question. Like you mention in your point 3: shortcuts! You write a short mail-question and you get a quick short mail-answer. You don’t spend hours to formulate your email, like you do among friends.

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  6. Dear Nadia, thank you for inviting our team to reflect on the role of networks; this was an incentive for us to find the time and to think over this subject together.

    Thank you for the link. The article has a few interesting points: nowadays the information is most often finding us and, definitely, using networks for organizations and universities is beneficial.

    However, I tend to agree with Marylaure Crettaz who is wondering in her interview (3rd part) if we are ready to use them. Maybe we need training on how to efficiently use networks? Thank you, Hynek, for the link and the positive comments!

    Dear Franz, thank you for your comment. From my observations, those colleagues who participate in a greater number of events organized within their thematic network are more satisfied with their experience than those who are less involved.

    Kind regards, Natalia

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