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‘Networking for Development’ by Paul Starkey

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Networking for Development,
by Paul Starkey
London: IFRTD, 103 pages, 1998.
ISBN 1 85339 430 0.


In ‘Networking for Development’, Professor Paul Starkey provides a very readable and thought-provoking analysis of the place of networking in the process of development. The book is divided into two parts. In part one, drawing on his own extensive experience in animal traction and rural transport, Starkey addresses some simple but important questions: ‘What is a network?’ ‘How do networks operate?’ and ‘What problems do networks face?’ In addressing these questions it becomes clear that networks are not simply about sharing information and undertaking joint activities but also important mechanisms for encouraging their members to learn from the experience of others.

Early in the book, Starkey makes an important distinction between the noun network, the verb to network and the participle networking and makes it clear that in his view "the process of networking is vital, and more crucial than a network structure". He goes on to express the view that "in an ideal world, development networks would not be necessary" by which we must assume that he means that formal networks would not be needed because the process of networking would be happening through a range of informal mechanisms. This raises a challenging idea that formal networks could be viewed as transitional arrangements on the road to establishing sustainable networking processes.

Part two of the book examines two networks in detail - the West African Animal Traction Network (WAATN) and the Animal Traction Network for Eastern and Southern Africa (ATNESA) - and, with refreshing open-ness, the author shares the lessons which have been learned from both the successes and the problems faced by these two well-established networks.

Perhaps the most useful sections of the book are those which examine the problems that can arise in networks and what can be done to avoid or address these problems. The section on general guidelines for networks is likely to be particularly welcome for anyone struggling with the practicalities of building or maintaining a network.

‘Networking for Development’ is illustrated throughout with very well-observed and amusing cartoons by Eddie Handono, any one of which would make an excellent discussion starter at a networking meeting or workshop. The book also contains a useful bibliography and list of network contacts. Although its main focus is on rural transport and animal traction, ‘Networking for Development’ deserves a much wider readership and IFRTD should be congratulated for making the book more generally available. Indeed, anyone with an interest in harnessing the power of networking in the process of development would find a study of its pages rewarding.

Bruce Britton, Independent Trainer and Consultant

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