This 136-page handbook by Argentinian nonprofit organisation CIPPEC is about networking for policy influence. It provides readers with lots of practical tips and guidelines on how to interact with regional and global networks and how to increase influence. The handbook is divided into five chapters, following a pathway that most civil society organisations (CSOs) take when using networks to maximise their policy influence.
The first chapter is dedicated to exploring where your organisation currently ‘sits’ within the landscape in which you hope to network and what its main challenges are. Overall, the handbook identifies 11 common challenges to effective networking stemming from an analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). These, for example, are securing funds, empowering a healthy leadership and good network structure, effective communication, generating credible research and developing the capacity to influence policies.
The handbook recommends doing a SWOT analysis as the first step before you join a network. It will help you see where you currently stand and how far you might be able to go in the future. If you do not know where to start with SWOT, the handbook provides you with plenty of pointers and guidance in the first chapter. If you’re looking for examples of the challenges networks face and how to solve them, the handbook presents four case studies in the second chapter.
The third chapter focuses on practical guides for improving your network’s influence processes. It covers everything from a stakeholder analysis, writing a proposal and designing a strategy to developing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. It is packed with useful tools, such as the Problem Tree Analysis, Influence Mapping and a detailed step-by-step guide to your communications plan.
The final two chapters are filled with more practical examples and resources. The fourth chapter looks at examples of organisations and policy spaces in South America and how they work with CSOs. It allows you to study best practices regarding CSO participation in regional networks that you can then apply to your work. The last chapter is a repository of resources that will help you deal with the most common challenges.
To conclude, the Weaving networks toolkit is a fantastic deep dive resource that allows you to learn about joining and creating a network and understanding the best practices. However, it is equally as good if you want to improve your knowledge in one aspect of influencing policy or if you are searching for inspiration. The handbook is very practical, with two chapters fully focused on case studies and an additional chapter dedicated to resources. Despite being written in 2007, it is still a smart overview and manual for regional and global network collaboration.
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