Executive Summary

When civil society organizations (CSOs) become part of an international network like Social Watch they are enabled to share their mission and experiences and also to enhance their impact by implementing actions together with organizations in other countries that pursue the same objectives at a national and at a global level.
In a world increasingly “interconnected”, being part of a network seems to be a “must”. However, is it just a question of opportunity or is there something more at the back of this choice? The present booklet summarizes the result of a study conceived to produce a better understanding of the main reasons driving the member organizations to join the Social Watch network. The study analyzed four successful cases of national platforms that chose to be members of Social Watch years ago and that are able today to present the results they achieved in their respective countries.
The study summarized here should be understood as a contribution to the crucial process intending to facilitate sharing of experiences, know-how transfer and capacity building among network members that are crucial to the promotion of a learning process based on sharing each others’ experience.

One of the strengths of the Social Watch network is its worldwide membership and its rather unique composition of NGOs, grassroots organizations, trade unions, women’s organizations, research centres coming from both Donor and Beneficiary Countries. This composition allows Social Watch to have a two-folded perspective, from the North as well as from the South, and to actually contribute at analysing local issues by pointing out their relevance and interconnection at a global level often in a cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary way. The plurality of actors participating in the process enables civil society organizations to join their own expertise and enhance their capacity to carry out a more effective advocacy and lobbying work at a national as well as at an international level.

The role of a coordinating/facilitating group is essential, since it guarantees consistency and coordination in the implementation of the activities among the heterogeneus coalition members – all of them baring their own and distinct internal organization and structure – as well as a close relationship with the International Secretariat.
Taking into consideration the vast array of themes the network usually deals with at a global level, it is cost-effective for national platforms to focus on a handful of issues considered as most relevant for their national agenda and agree on a yearly work plan.

Trust, flexibility, mutual respect, high commitment to common objectives: these seem to be the network’s features which ensure the wellbeing and satisfaction of its members. The national platform achieves its success when it does not duplicate the work of its members but rather offers them a valuable space for shaping public policies in a more comprehensive way. Indeed, the capacity of the network to combine different expertises in a single joint action becomes the added value.

The national coalition is required to play a key political role: the consultation process and researches it carries out for its reports is sometimes even more relevant than the report itself. Watchers need to be proactive at different levels: the alliances with the media and the academic world are critical, also those with local communities and ordinary citizens.

For all the four national coalitions analyzed, the above-mentioned elements have contributed to their gain in legitimacy and credibility in face of their Governments (for instance, the reliability and the international dimension of the data and of the analysis provided in the Reports have helped the national coalitions to be a relevant social actor able to attract new members constantly).

The cases presented here give an exhaustive picture of the challenges and opportunities any other national platform could face. Although this was not a comprehensive study, neither expected to be an academic research, it represented an initial survey on relevant experiences among SW national coalitions. Far from being an evaluation of the four selected Social Watch national platforms, this publication intends to become a useful tool for the whole network, as it identified and suggested key successful factors and best practices to be adopted by other coalitions in other national contexts.