The strengthening of indigenous NGO networks is an important element of the strategic framework used by the Office of Private and Voluntary Cooperation within the United States Agency for International Development (PVC – USAID). The purpose of this study is to provide information, raise questions, and begin a conversation within PVC and the development community about networks, in the development context. There is a great need to learn more about networks and to test our assumptions and understanding of the contributions that they can make. PVC is interested in finding out if the office should continue to support the development and ongoing work of networks as a vehicle for building the capacity of individual NGOs. This study consequently focuses on the contribution of networks to building the organizational capacity of their membership. Today, networks are a firmly entrenched facet of virtually every aspect of society and exist just about everywhere in the world. The utility of networks in the international development field has been well acknowledged by many donors, including USAID. PVC includes support for capacity building in networks as a component of its primary strategic objective to build capacity in civil society organizations and NGOs. A variety of network sub-categories exists, including communities of practice, knowledge networks, sectoral networks, social change or advocacy networks, or service delivery networks, just to name a few. This variety points to the fact that networks are created for a variety of purposes and embody a variety of structures. They can be both informal and formal associations, and exist at the local, national, regional, and global levels. They are more than just a resource center for their members – most networks involve member collaboration and sometimes engage in mutual or joint activities. Effective networks possess characteristics of strong social capital, leadership, governance and management, joint learning, and mutually beneficial partnership with donors. Effective networks have a diverse, dynamic membership and structure, and are committed to excellence and democratic decision-making processes.
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