12-country study report on the effectiveness of civil society networks

A report “Defining and assessing the effectiveness of civil society networks working on forest governance issues in Africa and Asia” has been published based on the results of a 2021 study conducted by RECOFTC, the Field Legality Advisory Group (FLAG) and the Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) of the University of Wolverhampton. The study lead, Professor Aurelian Mbzibain of CIDT explains that NGOs and their networks have grown and developed in tandem with the struggle of governments to overcome societal challenges including inequity, poverty, climate change and environmental degradation. Public and private donors and development agencies are turning to civil society coalitions to deliver aid effectively, but there are increasing concerns about how effective these networks really are. Research to date on the effectiveness of networks has tended to focus on the performance and effectiveness of public and private sector networks[1], but much less is known about what makes civil society development networks work[2]. This research addresses that gap.

The report highlights the multi-faceted nature of “effectiveness” and limited agreement amongst NGO leaders, international NGOs, donors and governments on what network effectiveness means. A diverse membership and skill set, shared vision and a performant management unit emerge as the most important internal contributing factor to the effectiveness of CS networks. Access to funding opportunities, safe civil space and recognition from donors and governments are the critical external factors. The study developed a model of civil society effectiveness including a framework for civil society networks to assess their effectiveness and develop measures for improvement.

Click here to access the full report.

The authors are grateful for various support from Tropenbos International, the European Union and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)- Forest Governance Markets and Climate (FGMC) Programme, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

[1] Provan, K.G and Milward, H. B (2001) ‘Do networks really work? A framework for evaluating public sector organizational networks’. Public Administration review 61:4, 414-423

[2] Poocharoen, O and Sovacool, B.K (2012) Exploring the challenges of energy and resources network governance, Energy Policy, 42(2012) 409-418, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2011.12.005

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