I like to think of a network of diverse groups as a tropical rain forest. The more diverse the tropical forest is, the greater its survival rate.
Erna Witoelar, founder of WALHI, an Indonesian environment network. 1
A review of all existing networks in Latin America and the Caribbean confirmed what we suspected: For practically every type of development effort--popular education, credit cooperatives, radiophonic programs, legal services. . . indigenous organizations have formed their own networks. 2
Most GRSO networks can be classified as formal or informal. Formal umbrella organizations of GRSOs usually have written constitutions or bylaws, often hold annual meetings, and represent GRSOs as a group in negotiations with governments and international donors. Although they often assist their member organizations through management training or bulk purchases, they tend not to be directly involved in grassroots support. GRSOs in informal networks interact with each other and may provide grassroots support as a group but do not generally create a formal organization of organizations. Networks of both general types may be multisectoral or may focus more narrowly on one development sector, and they may be regional or national in geographical focus.
Although these distinctions represent more of a continuum than rigid categories, it is important to understand them before discussing how well GRSO networks perform. This chapter next deals with GRSO performance