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Efficient networking is the engine for capacity development among different stakeholders fighting poverty

October 23, 2013 | Blog-Admin1 | SDC Experiences, SDC Networks |

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Portrait Markus Glatz

In the eye of the Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO) in Bolivia SDCs thematic networks are an important pillar for strengthening both the capacity of a great number of development actors and the sustainability of their projects. The level of their effort justifies the ‘raison d’être’ of the networks and the results they produce. Therefore we dare the prognosis: “Without networking – less development!”

By Markus Glatz and the SCO Team, La Paz

The statement of the Bolivian Office of SDC is the result of a workshop between the writer of this blog and the national program officer (NPO) colleagues Mónica Loayza, Marcelo Barron, Rodrigo Villavicencio and José Luis Perreira. All of them are members of at least one of the 13 thematic networks of SDC, among them the networks for Climate Change and Environment, Agriculture & Food Security, Conflicts & Human Rights, Decentralization and Local Governance, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), Employment & Income (e+i), Gender and Water. In six of them the office is an active member influencing the agenda. In DRR the Bolivia office even manages the regional coordination and the Latin American and Caribbean Division in Berne leads e+i.

NW Bolivien

Basic thoughts for efficient networking

1. The face-to-face (f2f) meetings of the networks are “moments forts” for sharing thematic knowledge and learning processes and fostering capacity development as long as they are based on operational experiences and the exchange of good practices to be provided for its own development work. But sometimes regional f2f are more useful sharing experiences of a similar cultural context than huge global f2f with considerable problems of understanding. A lot of Latin American participants are not very used to speak and read English.

2. The agenda setting of the networks should not be appropriated too much by headquarter but integrate issues of concern within the Cooperation Offices. Bolivia tried to influence the agenda setting in the Decentralization and Local Governance and the Human Rights & Conflict networks – without success. Virtual platforms can help posting issues launched by the Offices which could be discussed more deeply in a f2f or other forums for sharing ideas.

3. Knowledge and inputs provided by the networks often are triggers for our daily business helping to improve our project and program management. The direct integration of the issue management in the strategic and operational work in the partner countries thanks to the networks and their experienced human resources can strengthen the performance of SDC.

4. The commitment of the management in the Field Offices is crucial for an effective issue management in favor of poverty alleviation and social inclusion of poor people. In the La Paz office will be soon redefined the role and the responsibility of NPOs and Expats in SDC’s thematic networks in order to strengthen still more thematic skills in the daily work.

Opportunities and threats of networks

1. Regional Communities of Practice formed by networks are very useful and open your mind for bringing in additional knowledge in the project implementation and the policy dialogue. We made such a positive experience with a Public Private Development Partnership project for watershed-management in Nicaragua.

2. F2f events can be the starting point of successful contacts between Southern project partners. E.g. the f2f Agriculture and Food Security helped the office to contribute to a South-South cooperation between Cuba and Bolivia. A Cuban expert in promoting productive development platforms came to Bolivia in order to advise regional innovative agricultural platforms in the region of Cochabamba.

3. You have to bear in mind that the daily workload often hinders a full engagement of the Cooperation Offices in the networks, especially in the virtual platforms to comment documents. One has not enough time to read the flood of information. Our motto is: less is more. Please, be selective in the launch of new network products to be discussed and take into consideration the language constraint. Maybe a parallel Spanish and French web platform would make sense.

What should be done in the future

1. Not providing through the networks a flood of information but useful good practices which generate evidence and can be used regarding the Project Cycle Management (PCM) and strategic processes in the Cooperation Offices.

2. Assuring the integration of each NPOs in one thematic network in order to strengthen his or her capacity and the ownership of the strategic issues of concern within the office.

…and for our better use of networks results the SCO La Paz would like to establish a internal feedback mechanism which allows the exchange of issues of concern raised by the networks and influences our strategic discussion.

In that sense the engagement in networks is not a luxury occupation but part of an efficient work in the Cooperation Office.

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