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Policy/project based networks

A policy network approach captures the fragmented and sectorized nature of the EU. It highlights the fact that the degree and nature of national adaptation differs from one policy area to another, and according to the different mix of players involved. Some policy fields, and the networks that preside over them have been intensely Europeanized, for instance agriculture, while others have not, for instance transport. This approach helps one to gauge such variation and the varying involvement of different layers of government and public and private actors in different EU policy fields (Bomberg, Peterson, Stubb, 2008: 87).

c. Knowledge networks (BKNT (Brussels Knowledge Network Toolkit), transparency etc. ) Research and Innovation Brussels based representations are in charged with facilitating, informing and bringing ground level practitioners, policy makers, businesses and researchers into the development of the European Research Area. Some networks have been initiated by the European Commission and others, somewhat more independent, were developed by the regions themselves with a more “bottom up” approach.

The direct link with Brussels either at the administrative level or at the political level has proved crucial to ensure both the legitimacy of the network and financial survival. Subscription-based networks usually have a General Assembly in overall control with a smaller Steering Committee and a Secretariat. The first aim of the toolkit is to understand the evolution of national/regional, public/private lobbying through policy networks and to acknowledge the impact of this particular aspect of European Research Area (Piccinetti, 2007:7, 12).

BNKT (Brussels Knowledge Network Toolkit) methodology: Network as mode of governance In fact, the ability of networks to innovate and produce sustainable results depends on the talent of network managers to keep the ties between actors loose but still close enough to be manageable – as one observer described it, networks are exercises in structured informality (Prewitt, 1998). “Collaboration” rather than “cooperation” might therefore be the more appropriate term to describe the relationships and processes within a network.

“Cooperation” may result in cognitive blockades as a result of social cohesion as well as thinking and acting in networks might become strongly path-dependent and structurally conservative. A network loses much of its comparative advantage to a conventional hierarchy when it institutionalizes and degenerates into just another organization. The major strength of networks is therefore diversity, not uniformity. According to some analysts, horizontal governance systems can help solve complex problems through a variety of venues (for a more detailed analysis see Messner, 1997).

They can pool know-how, provide a space in which experiences can be exchanged (providing a space for learning), facilitate negotiations that may lead to consensus or compromises through increased transparency and, finally, result in a re-construction of interests among actors through the process of social interaction. It is important to understand that global public policy networks are not just another attempt at organization building, but that they are dynamic in both process and structure (Piccinetti, 2009:16-18). The first task, of course, is getting the network up and running.

Often it is the vision, dynamism and resolve of one or a few individuals—like Kadar Asmal in the case of the World Commission on Dams—that provide the spark for a new network. In other cases the needed leadership is institutional: an example is the World Health Organization’s role in launching Roll Back Malaria. Would-be founders of a network must concentrate on getting the network dynamics right from the start, which means getting the right people on board and creating a common, shared vision. They must also make sure that participants realize their dependence on each other and on innovative collective thinking to solve the problem at hand.

The leaders must take pains not to allow the network to become too closely tied to themselves or another individual or institution; rather they must be willing, even eager, to share power and to “lead from behind. ” (Piccinetti, 2009:16-18) A second challenge is balancing adequate consultation with delivery on the network’s objectives—or in other words, getting the process right while getting the product out. It is important to allow for extensive consultation and discussion, especially in the start-up phase, and especially when the participants have heretofore been adversaries or competitors.

This gives legitimacy to the network process—but it also risks delay in achieving the results that the participants and their constituencies demand. Networks can help keep their efforts on the rails by setting “milestones” against which to measure their progress. They can also sometimes engineer “easy wins” that help to satisfy their constituencies while allowing longer-incubating work to proceed (Piccinetti, 2009:16-18). Networks must avoid falling into the trap of becoming just another institution, with an established bureaucracy and a rigid hierarchy.

Network managers must therefore focus on maintaining “structured informality”—by keeping relationships loose and unconfining while at the same time building in enough organization and framework to get things done. One way to dodge the institutional trap is to build the network on existing institutions, keeping the network’s own secretariat to a minimum. Built-in review processes, internal and external, can also help prevent ossification of the network’s structures, practices, and people. A useful strategy in fostering networks and their goals is to look actively for possible alliances across sectors.

Sectors, after all, are not monolithic, and sometimes intrasectoral divides create opportunities for innovative intersectoral networking, where people and institutions in different sectors can find common ground (Piccinetti, 2009:16-18). Outcomes could be explained by reference to the structure of the knowledge policy networks but they should also be the result of strategically calculated actions by the members. Outcomes could nevertheless also depend on the interactions and interrelations that channel the chain reactions within the network.

Strong tie networks are best at enhancing the credibility and trust required to resolve cooperation problems, as encountered in the implementation of joint projects where defection by other participants poses considerable risks. We can thus expect stakeholders with larger bridging networks to dominate in strategic planning but stakeholders with denser networks to do better in the implementation stages of joint undertaking. Collective action is hard to measure directly as it varies over space and time in terms of process indicators and outcome indicators.

Nevertheless, the use of collective action and game theory to explain knowledge policy networks in Brussels offers us the possibility to understand the process of regional lobbying and regional influence on policy making and its outcomes and thus enrich the theoretical framework that explains policy networks. The BNKT toolkit suggests the following actions : • benchmark how others have developed their networks • Training and Information days • Networking project market places with regional stakeholders • Develop relationship between TURBO and other network. to decide some joint policy initiatives.

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