The ten commandments—the ten ‘C’s—of networking are: common values, core competence, critical mass, complementarities, creativity, cost, control, credit, change and complexities. Forming a critical mass is an important part of networking.
Networks that are founded on values are sustainable. Those that are formed as interest groups or for any other reason will flounder if they do not have common values. These values need to be defined and determined upfront, articulated and formalised as institutional practice and systems—commonly known as ‘good governance’ practices. Networking must be based on the core competence or commonality of the constituents. It must have a common agenda or interest.
The network should have the critical mass or sufficient strength in terms of numbers and influence to bring about the desired impact. This critical mass should have sufficient space for each and every constituent of the network to be given a specific task which will enable individual recognition together with a display of skills and talent.
Once the critical mass is attained, the network needs to have diverse skills and expertise within it so that it can be present in all forums with internal expertise. What is stressed here is that there needs to be a common perspective but different skills. The appropriate analogy would be an organisation that has people with similar values but different skills.
A network is not only to do the same things on a bigger scale. It is to do new things. A network of excellent programme implementation grassroots groups need not remain a programme implementation network. They can collectively do things they did not do before—such as advocacy and lobbying and other such actions to engage in the creation of mindscapes.
The principles of strategic networking remain the same. The objective is not only numbers, but also to ensure diversity—geographic, social and thematic—within the network.
The format helps us to track whether the requisite diversity within the campaign exists, and if not, where the gaps are. Being databased, it helps us move beyond our blindspots and beyond our comfort zones if we wish to do so. Where the requisite diversity is absent, then it will be the responsibility of the members to consciously, proactively search, invite, and include such organisations and individuals.
For instance, if the table reveals that there are no organisations in a district, then it shall be the duty of that state coordinator to find an organisation in that district who would be willing to be part of the campaign. Once that district organisation is identified and included, then the district organisation would identify other groups.
The group must also track how many of these groups are women headed. If there is a gap (less than 30%) then we would need to identify and include women headed organisations at the state and district levels. Similarly for PWD, children’s, Dalit and Adivasi headed organisations (and intersectionality: Dalit women, Adivasi women, in each district, theme, sector...).
Next is to track the links with professional groups, such as teachers, media, health and government officials. Sharing this information will enable purposive networking in other states. For instance, if one state networks with the Indian Union of Working Journalists, then others can do so, citing that as leverage. Similarly, if a national network (say Voluntary Health Association of India, VHAI) is part of the campaign in one state, it could be invited to be part of the campaign in all states where it is present—and also join the national working group.
By such purposive networking the collective strength of all will be leveraged to become greater than the individual strength.
(This note was initially prepared for the Right to Sanitation Campaign).