Governance and Networks
In addition to the different actors, governance relates to the interactions or connections between the different actors. These are sometimes referred to as networks and can be formal or informal. Formal networks are established frameworks with formal agreements between the parties. Informal networks are interactions between different actors without formal agreements, such as when two presidents meet to talk about mutual interests. There are two parts to consider when thinking about networks: who are members, and what is the focus.
Network members can be of a similar type (e.g. homeowners working together), or they can be different types (e.g. local businesses working with members of the community). These network members can be located close to each other (e.g. members of a homeowners association), or they can be spread around the world (e.g. members of Friends of the Earth). In both types of groupings, network membership can be voluntary (where individuals can opt in and out) or obligatory (where participation is required). Voluntary networks have different arrangements where potential members may or may not be approved by the existing members before they join. Obligatory networks (e.g. River Basin Management Districts for Local Authorities in Ireland) have more stringent requirements for membership and typically require specific actions as part of the membership.
Network focus is about the shared goals or common interest of the members. In some cases, networks are working on a very specific issue (e.g. The Shell to Sea campaign). In other cases, networks have a broader focus (e.g. An Taisce and the Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland. When the network’s focus is very narrow, members are more likely to be very similar. When the network’s focus is very broad, members are likely to be more diverse with different perspectives or from different backgrounds.
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