Fruit of learning acquired in previous experiences, we can affirm that that there are a series of factors which contribute to the successful development of international networking. This is not a recipe for success, but could help as a checklist to review the different components of current or future networking initiatives within our Jesuit apostolic body.
(1) Leadership. All networks need inspiration, strategic vision and direction.
- The network leader must have the time, ability and personal dedication.
- A core-group of members, with the leader, should be the moving force of the network. Within this group decisions should be made mostly by consensus
- We also need a back-bone organization, a central institution that takes on the function of facilitating communication, offering services, carrying out project management, etc… Some of these functions can be distributed among the members of the network but a central coordination is always needed.
(2) Do you have a strategy and a plan? Be clear and concrete. This allows discernible concrete results, a thorough accounting of the network itself, and the possibility of evaluate its functioning.
(3) Internal and external communication is basic for coordination, visibility promotion and celebration of the achievements. It’s also important to highlight the key role of the actual meeting where members are physically present that are necessary in order to develop mutual knowledge and trust to foster a sense of community in mission.
(4) Another key feature is a clear Ignatian and Jesuit identity in the institutions, processes and structures. Such an identity generates a strong sense of common mission and belonging within the network.
(5) Even when an official mandate it’s not a requirement, recognition by a province, conference or wider Jesuit governance structure has been important for the current networks in order to: identify needs and priorities, assure synergies with other Jesuit works, and enhance its contribution to the strategic or apostolic plan of its scope.
(6) Finally, many networks have been failing for lack of human and financial resources needed to maintain participation and execute activities being carried out. This is a key check point to consider before any implementation.
If you are already working on a network and some of these factors are not right, hopefully this could be of help to prioritize your strategic focus in the following months. If you are starting a new networked venture, be sure you have the basics in place before the music start. Let us know if something is missing or you have experience that could enrich this post. Thanks!!
The basic info of this post is extracted from a document wrote by the Social Coordinators of the Conferences in May 2013 titled Networking in order to respond better to our mission. Networks of the social apostolate in the Society of Jesus. Recently published in Promotio Iustitiae, n° 113, 2013/4, also available on our website [English] [Spanish] [French]. Photo from Flickr by didmyself under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
Note: this post was orginally published on 2014 but it has been reedited for dialogue towards GC-36.