The purpose of a network firstly at the basic level is communication across parties, with whom linkage is planned to be established in order to overcome isolation, educating, sensitizing, and motivating a person or a group of persons or organisations on any particular issue or a series of issues. Network provides for free flow of experiences and ideas across individuals and groups. Communication in a network can be initiated by anyone and received by any one.
Secondly solidarity across parties, sharing of good ideas, support during crisis either materially or emotionally. In solidarity, there is an element of mutual accountability.
The third purpose is to influence others – the public at large, the political parties, media, corporate sector etc. The shared analysis and common vision among various actors of civil society are the basis to influence public policy (public policy in a contemporary context, may be made by a local, regional or national government or a bilateral, multilateral agency or other actors like MNCs at the national and / or global levels).
The fourth purpose is that of mobilizing energy / resources particularly among individuals. New ideas, designs and perspectives get elaborated through new ways of relating with each other. Networks emerging around socially difficult issues such as child labour, environment protection, violence against women, human rights etc. are able to mobilize individuals and groups and promote linkage, energy / resource mobilization among them.
Lastly networks promote linkage building. Bringing together like-minded individuals, groups and institutions around a shared development agenda can be facilitated through a network. The purpose is not to coordinate the activities of those individuals or groups but to facilitate it through systematic communication, sharing of information, experience and ideas.
The dilemma that networks are facing is of striking a balance between the complexity of its purpose and the commonality of thoughts between the parties forming a network. More complex the purpose, the more it is difficult for a network to have parties of common thought. If the purpose is simple, it is easier to have parties of common thought, but those not having commonality in their thoughts remain outside the purview of the network and are difficult to be influenced.
A network strives to achieve a balance by defining its purpose suitable to the environment in its area of operation and trying to influence a large gamut of parties engaged in a variety of activities.
Networks can be used for variety of purposes. It may be for achieving short-term as well as long-term goals. Different networks have been used for achieving different goals and different networks may be relevant for different situations. The relevance of a network can be briefly assessed on the following aspects.
SANSAD acts as:
- A vehicle for identifying, articulating and discussing issues of major concerns, which are difficult to deal within an existing institutional / organizational framework of partner organizations.
- An alternative arena for elaborating and sharpening newer ideas, visions, and perspectives. This is largely because new ideas entail a critique of and departure from the established modes. The existing institutional framework tends to curtail such possibilities.
- To provide support to grass-root organizations at the time of their hardship or retaliation from vested interests, especially to organizations working for awareness building, organizing people for their rights and for social change. These types of organizations inevitably invite retaliation from vested interests. Networks are also necessary to deal with such retaliations as a political strategy.
- A relevant strategy for resisting the increasingly diminishing democratic space and functioning at various levels in a given local, national, regional and international situation.
- To utilize and identify, encourage and revitalize individuals and small groups to support the cause of social transformation, and
- To exchange information, experience and vision across the cultures, systems, countries and continents.
Besides these, SANSAD is the most efficient and flexible mechanism for sharing information, experience and ideas across people, from various ideologies, groups and organizations spread geographically and working on diverse issues.
What has SANSAD done so far?
- Created a country-wise alliance of opinion leaders representing key sectors of South Asian society who will provide direction and a framework for stimulating cooperative multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural efforts to counter tensions resulting from social and economic divisions on a national and regional level thus helping to eliminate poverty and hunger from the region
Sectors from which the opinion leaders are drawn include, but not be limited to:
- Faith Community
- Youth or student organizations
- Civil rights advocacy
- Non-profit service agencies