Effective networks



Networks are extremely difficult to get right. Disengagement is the nemesis of a well functioning network and can manifest itself in two ways. First peripheral partners may not offer much support, and remain a network member in name only. Second elements of a network can work autonomously with little regard for the overall network's goals.

These reactions are often caused by perception of inequity in the power structure of the network. Peripheral groups either see an opportunity to do their own thing, because they feel the centre lacks vision or leadership; or they see little benefits from engaging. Often the centre is unaware of these perceptions, indeed very often the centre does not want that role.

Communication can solve a number of these issues. First it can identify the mismatch of percpetions within a network, and tease out the inequalities or incorrect assumptions. Secondly communication can bind a network more closely together. Personal and proactive communication (in addition to newsletters and websites) is one of the best ways of engaging peripheral groups.

The best networks also have a centre that is the dynamo that drives the rest of the group machine. That centre needs a vision, and a plan. It should set standards and it should have a system of de-listing inefficient members. But it also needs to reflect and be as diverse as its members. If you fail to accept this, then ambitious elements of your network will challenge the structure and form alternative power centres. Therefore the best people from the network members should either work or get the chance to have an internship at the network hub. Shared training and innovative ideas should be disseminated by the network, but the need for that training and the source of those ideas, should come from the network members themselves - not top down. 

Development networks often start as a funded project with local partners, but they have to turn into locally-owned processes. This exposes the project to to the potential risk of failure, but project managers have to plan for and manage that process.

Finally networks do not happen through good will alone, there has to be some individual gain for members. Understand this, and you are half-way to creating a rarity in this world; a healthy network.


Contact us now for support with your network; info@projects-direct.net