Saturday, November 23, 2013

Networking: An imperative

In the previous post,  I pointed out  the critical role of NGOs  which is considered both an asset and liability. Because they frequently pioneer new approaches and challenge development orthodoxy,NGOs are vulnerable to groups with vested interests.Consequently, the NGOs face the problem of either co-optation or reprisal from the government and other traditional power holders that want to maintain the status quo. Moreover, they have to deal with the proliferation of pseudo NGOs that undermine the sector’s credibility. A number of these pseudo NGOs set up not for any other purpose than to take advantage of funding sources for dubious or narrow purposes, according to Abad (1990).This issue has been  highlighted by  the current pork barrel controversy in the Philippines  involving the Napoles  network of fake NGOs.

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Faced with such problems and threats to their credibility, NGOs have seen the need to establish linkages and networks among themselves and with other sectors of society. Melgrito (1994) has defined networking as coordination among people, groups or organizations of various interests and orientation, working together as in a chain so as to function in a specific manner. It takes place when organizations link up together and make concerted efforts for mutual advantage and greater effectiveness towards the achievement of a common goal.

As a strategy, networking has been used by many sectors in pursuing development endeavors. Networks link local efforts for more effective lobbying and advocacy and provide venues for the exchange of experiences and resources between similar NGOs. A proper coordination of NGO activities, in networking, helps prevent unnecessary duplication or overlapping of development effort. NGOs are also protected from any form of threat because of their collective nature, while they police their own ranks through common code of conduct.

Networks are defined as units, institutions, agencies or organizations united for a free flow of information and resources between members without any established hierarchy or structure (Third World Studies Center, 1990). Forming networks and umbrella organizations is advantageous to NGOs for varied reasons. Aldaba (1990) cites six benefits in this regard, namely: (1) Greater economic and political impact; (2) Access to and sharing of resources; (3) Sector Protection; (4) Effective relations with governments; (5) Establishing sector standard; and (6) Linkage with other sectors for social transformation.


Alegre (1996) cites the following strategic concerns addressed by establishing networks: (1) Sharing and exchange of resources, such as information, funds, technology, and expertise; (2) The coordination and complementation of programs and projects; (3) The formulation of common agenda or plans of action for purposes of advocacy, participation in governance, and resource mobilization; (4) Consciousness raising and development education, especially on the relations between developed and developing countries and between the NGO and PO communities in these countries.

Clark (1990) noted that networking offers a lot of advantages to NGOs. These advantages apply equally to international lobbying endeavors. In addition to mutual fortification and mutual protection, networking or lobbying provides the possibility for NGOs to specialize in areas in which they have individual advantage. According to Clark, NGOs can also lobby their own government on their intentions, replication and mainstreaming of initiatives of member NGOs. Networks can engage in wide scale consortium projects covering larger areas. Political impact through issue advocacy is strengthened and more effective when there is a collective effort to lobby and mobilize.

Networks are better able than an individual NGO to tap resources internally among members and externally from the government, donor agencies, and other NGOs. Similarly, they can facilitate resource accessing for individual NGOs since the former can guarantee the track record of the latter.


This article is part of the series of posts on NGOs. Admittedly, the current pork barrel controversy in the Philippines  involving the Napoles  network of fake NGOs has besmirched the noble aim and name of  non-government organizations (NGOs). However, we consider the crisis an opportunity to bring to the public consciousness the role of NGOs in nation building. Previous posts tackle the rationale of this series, heterogeneity of NGOs, their history,  classification and strategies.

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