Network Strengthening

Why It Matters Resources
According to an African proverb, "When cobwebs unite they can tie up a lion." Indeed, many organizations throughout the world are experiencing the power of networking to support their development goals and help scale up the impact of their work. In a hyperconnected world, development organizations can no longer afford to operate as "islands". Today’s challenges are embedded in environmental, social, organizational, and political contexts that exist outside the capacity and influence of any single organization, community, or individual.

Through our work facilitating networks - both formal and informal - we have observed how networks:
  • Promote the rapid exchange of ideas, skills and information, often on a global scale.

  • Serve to coordinate development efforts and minimize the duplication of programs and services and create greater efficiencies.

  • Contribute to more expansive and creative thinking about development challenges and their solutions.

  • Enhance social capital and promote productive alliances with supporters, policy-makers, colleague organizations and-most importantly-the people and communities served.

How We Do It
With so many clear benefits, why do organizations frequently struggle to lead or participate effectively in networks? Networks deal with intangibles. Unlike private business, which can be measured by profit and shareholder value, networks have few objective measures of effectiveness. Root Change introduces metrics and network visualizations to better understand network intangibles, including spheres of influence and the identification of top networkers, key resource hubs and opinion leaders.

figure 1.0
figure 1.1

Our approach to network strengthening begins by unearthing preexisting networks of organizations and individuals. Through interviews, focus group work, and sophisticated network analysis techniques, Root change develops a network value chain (figure 1.0), network metrics, and maps (figure 1.1). We use participatory data collection techniques that can include peer-peer organizational capacity assessments, community score cards, and community-driven data collection using cellular phones and SMS technologies.

This analysis phase forms the foundation for our work, which promotes network strengthening initiatives that:
  • Leverage assets - material, monetary, intellectual, social and political

  • Strengthen networking capacity and social bonding and bridging capital of network members

  • Launch and monitor performance improvement interventions

What We've Done
Root Change takes pride in a long history of work in network strengthening. The Root Change team pioneered the use of Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) in the international development sector, applying ONA in Africa, Asia and Latin America to map existing networks to learn how members are interlinked and to establish metrics for performance. Recent applications include a multi-country study for the Federation of the Red Cross with 18 National Societies. This work continues today as we launch and monitor the progress of network strengthening initiatives in six countries with the support of the American Red Cross.

In Namibia, Root Change launched Community LINKS, a highly successful health systems strengthening initiative utilizing mobile phone technology. Root Change collaborated with USAID, Pact, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (MGECW), the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and local NGOs, to develop a comprehensive community-driven reporting and monitoring system using Frontline SMS and Ushahidi mapping technology. The program is built around the use of simple SMS texts to report on the well-being of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and to better coordinate services targeted Namibia’s most vulnerable.

Root Change has also worked in partnership with SNV to build local Business Development Service provider networks across Vietnam, Pakistan, and Laos. In Tanzania, we collaborated with the Grassroots Business Fund (GBF) to map the capacity development network for social entrepreneurs, creating the first network analysis mapping initiative of the local business ecosystem. Central to Root Change’s network strengthening work is the use of a value chain approach, which was recently presented at the Aspen Institute and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

Note* Some of these resources were produced by Root Change staff while under the auspices of Pact

Root Change 610 8th St. NE Washington DC
202-470-5566 |