The good turnout for the expert meeting once more illustrates the great interest in learning more about networking. About 60 professionals from a great number of development organisations were present. Networks appear in different ways and there is a need to understand how you can guide these successfully. The verdict by Rosemarie Wuite (NIZA) characterised accurately what a network is all about: "We have people, and that’s all we have."

The participants underlined the importance of trust and ownership as central drivers for a healthy network, as a network functions according to the quality of relationships. The question remains: how can you manage this? It was one of the dilemmas that emerged during the discussion. One participant pronounced: "Networks cannot be managed, they should be facilitated, and that can be managed." Guestspeaker Hedwig Bruggeman (Agriprofocus) recommended not to waste energy trying keeping everyone on board. The central issue must be relevant to the person concerned and further success will depend on the facilitation of the network.

MDF and PSO are looking back on a successful event and are looking forward to meeting again and continueing the discussion. Herman Snelder (Director MDF) underlined the importance of deepening the debate around networks: "We need to evolve from intuitively facilitating networks to being consciously competent; this requires practise and exchanging ideas."

Both MDF and PSO offer training courses to advance the facilitation skills of network practitioners. MDF offers a two week training course existing of four modules from 13 till 24 June 2011. PSO coordinates an action research with North-South networks, the findings will be presented in a seminar on 10 June 2011. PSO furthermore starts a renewed course in September this year.

Based on the contributions of the speakers and participants the organisers like to excerpt the following key notices feeding the ongoing debate:

– The quality of the relationships drives networks and is key to achieve results
– Results are important, but be careful with imposing structure and result driven planning
– How to balance progress and results?
– Donors should help enable the building of ownership in networks
– Good interpersonal skills are essential for network facilitators
– How do you combine secondary relations and hierarchical relations in the network?

For more information, please visit www.mdf.nl/networkapproaches. On the website you will find background material, the participantslist, presentations of the (guest)speakers, and posters constructed by the attending network practitioners.

www.mdf.nl/networkapproaches

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