The Citizen Handbook
Activating Citizen Power
Form Networks & Partnerships
A network or partnership develops among community groups based on a set of common issues, concerns or principles. A network or partnership may have different degrees of formality, but its primary function is to expand the reach and influence of its individual member groups. A network or partnership may support common objectives.Member groups may even pool their resources to advance a common cause or sustained effort in the community.
When building your network or partnership it is important that member groups have a clear understanding of its purpose, goals and objectives from the very beginning. This will help members make collective decisions more easily.You can formalise your relationships with other groups through a written agreement such as a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which all partners should sign. The MoU can either have an end date or be an open agreement among partners.By building a network or partnership among groups within your community, can help individual groups overcome five key challenges:
1.Lack of information (little knowledge about local resources and the legitimate and efficient use of them);
2.Lack of political influence (little credibility with local authorities and support services such as finance agencies and legal services);
3.Lack of political credibility (small scale of influence with which to negotiate and poor knowledge of the rules and regulations surrounding your issue);
4.Lack of administrative experience (no history with the bureaucracy of the newly devolved government); and
5.Lack of collective confidence (few joint experiences on which to establish mutual trust and from which to take calculated risks).
Creating a network or partnership will also benefit the others. It develops community capacity, builds a support network for everyone and promotes independence.
How to Build a Community Network
Creating a network requires planning and a clear set of ideas and objectives in order to attract other groups. Below are some best practices to help you should you decide to form a network:
· Community awareness – talk to other local groups or even an NGO working in the area to support your citizen participation efforts and find out what steps need to be taken to attract support for your group’s work in the community.
· Form an association – see if a loose or formal association of other committees, businesses or local leaders might strengthen both your cause and theirs. Remind these colleagues that community members who agree to form such an association are stronger because they can undertake joint actions together.
· Management formalisation – agree exactly what legal and financial activities are required in order for you to be officially recognized as a local interest group, and over what time frame.?