Cooperation Offices and Networks: From Skepticism to Dedication

December 11, 2013 | Blog-Admin1 | SDC Experiences, SDC Networks |


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IbrahimFor the SCO Macedonia the networks of SDC are an important tool for learning and sharing. The exchange with peers and the joint reflection of practices is stimulating, instructive and rewarding. Even as lurkers – as the time constraints limit sometimes proactive participation – the benefit is high. And the networks are shaped and co-owned by its members; this makes them so valuable.

Ibrahim Mehmeti with contributions from the SCO Macedonia team


When I was invited to participate at my first networking meeting, a Western Balkan Governance workshop organized by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) in 2008, I was a bit skeptical.

Based on my previous experience in some other networks, I was thinking that it might be one of those “mandatory requisites” that all bigger organizations use to have. But still, I thought, it is a good opportunity to meet colleagues from other SCO (Swiss Cooperation Offices).

Participants can shape the agenda. This gives a strong sense of shared ownership.

Now, looking back at the development of SDC’s networks this perception has changed a lot. Not only my perception. This is a shared perception among those colleagues I have met during this period, including my colleagues who are active in different networks. The main reason for this change of perception is one special “flavor” of SDC networks – that is that participants can shape the agenda! This might sound like a small thing, but for people working in the field offices it makes a very important difference. It gives a strong sense of shared ownership.

SCO Macedonia

Diverse networking picture

SCO Macedonia is represented in several networks – Decentralization and Local Governance Network (DLGN), Western Balkans Governance Network, ResEAU and Climate Change Environment Network, Gender Network, Finance and Administration Network and Employment + Income Network. Some of the program officers are longer in the networks and there are also new colleagues with little experience. There are new networks as well. Like the one including finance and administration active since the beginning of this year. Some networks are more active than others which make the overall networking picture of our office quite diverse, but also very vibrant. Here you can find an overview on SDC’s networks.

Through networks we get to know colleagues.

Preparing this reflection together with my colleagues, I realized that beside the initial skepticism we all find participation in our respective networks very useful, because it enables us to get first hand information on topics related to our domains. Everyone also appreciates the fact that through networks we get to know colleagues with whom we can exchange experiences and sometimes we get ideas for new projects or for modification of the ongoing ones.

Exchange and mirroring

When there is a completely new topic, such as “integrated embassies”, experiences from different offices on how to implement instructions have been of great help. For new colleagues networks offer a good opportunity for fast learning and for establishing exchange with peers from other countries. Networks are a useful tool strengthening not only the work in their domain, but the operation of offices in general.

Experiences from different offices on how to implement instructions have been of great help.

One of my most appreciated experiences was developed within the network DLGN. Several SCO were preparing study cases and the other offices were “mirroring” them by giving their own reflection based on their personal experience and the specific context in which they work. This reflection process was rewarding and instructive for both sides. The insights gained were highly appreciated and the time investment was considered as valuable. Especially useful have been the exchange of experiences related to the cost effectiveness, gender mainstreaming and points related to the political economy analysis in general.

Time constraints make us lurkers

Unfortunately, the available time for active participation in network activities and learning exercises is quite limited. This explains why the majority in our office considers themselves as “lurkers”, who benefit a lot from following the discussions. We try to make meaningful contributions as much as we can; e.g. in the gender network, and decentralization and local governance network.

Lurkers” benefit a lot from following the discussions.

Looking back at the beginning we could point out that SDC’s networks have well become significant tool for us for learning and exchanging – at both regional and global level.

What is your experience with SDC’s networks?

We are curious to get to know your perspective on SDC’s networks.

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