Sustainability of networks (157) #sfrome

Written by Elaine Reinke (IFAD, NEN division)

How do we sustain our networks?

Networks and CoPs spring up like mushrooms these days, many of which are initiated and funded by external donors like IFAD. Everyone seems to agree that the glue is the commitment and ownership of its members. But how can we turn donor driven and funded initiatives into self-sustained CoPs that survive and have an impact beyond the funding period of say IFAD?

The chat show with representatives of the IFAD-supported networks KariaNet II and MENARID in the Near East and North Africa region, implemented by IDRC and ICARDA respectively, assembled a pretty full house of experienced “networkers” who entered into a rich discussion:

  • We must consider the obstacles generated by formalizing networks…
  • What do we really want to sustain – the network or the KM culture among network members? How successful can a network that combines different knowledge sharing cultures be?
  • We must be careful about addressing a sensitive issue like financial sustainability too early in the process of building a CoP…
  • Aren’t donors such as IFAD supposed to fund networks if they commit to investing in KM and benefit from their investments?
  • Apart from the facilitation of a network – a job for “social artists”, as Etienne Wenger calls them – the quality of products and services are key assets – but can also slow things down…
  • Networks should be aware of and build on the strategic asset of networks of and within networks…
  • How should networks behave in an environment where individuals are being protective of their knowledge?

A number of assets, challenges and opportunities emerged from the debate … which is to be continued – by creating a CoP on the sustainability of networks, deepening the discussion with interested networkers and social artists via a blog or mailing list? Nice idea!

Drop an email to and you’re in!