Lara Nassar of IUCN’s Regional Office for West Asia reflects on the power of networking from her experience at the recent 7th World Water Forum.
To many people in my region, networking is theoretical. It will not lead to action on the ground and more importantly, resources should be put into projects that directly benefit the local community in developing countries. For many years, being from Jordan myself, I thought so too.
During the World Water Forum, I helped staff the IUCN booth (which, if I may add, was amazing). I took great pride in sharing our activities with participants, showcasing our achievements, and explaining our work in West Asia and North Africa. I was able to share A toolkit for increasing climate change resilience in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) with many people, mostly from that region. These professionals were genuinely interested and willing to share it with others. This will help increase awareness about the participatory approach to environmental management that we use in the region to increase local community climate change resilience. But, I still ask myself, is this what networking really means?
At IUCN’s Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA), after two years of working with member organisations and partners under the Regional Knowledge Network on Water (RKNOW), this is no longer a project but an initiative, a strategic vision, a NETWORK.
During one of the forum meetings, ROWA partners and members took turns in voicing their long-term vision for this network. It was very interesting to notice that they saw this as a long-term partnership, a collaborative environmental network which will in turn create change on the ground, that will not end when the project itself expires.
From the past few years with IUCN, I have learned how beneficial networking can be. We usually have so much going on, but barely get the chance to disseminate our activities and achievements. The unique thing about IUCN is that it works within a partnership. I have realised that networking doesn’t only mean disseminating achievements, but making use of a huge partnership and increasing a sense of ownership. Networking is about making sure that partners and members see the benefit and feel empowered. If partners take greater ownership, well, work on the ground will have a bigger impact.
Using a network such as RKNOW will not only help incorporate practical knowledge (data, information) from different sources, but also create new knowledge which is fed by its partnership. Creating knowledge about projects that have a significant impact across the region and ‘networking’ this knowledge can then influence policy makers in finding new ways to improve environmental governance.
I can confidently say that networking creates infinite possibilities for change.