Born out of member demand for appropriate anti-corruption tools and a genuine desire to learn from their African their peers, the Réseau GAC is an informal network of civil society organizations engaged in governance and anti-corruption in francophone Africa. Today, it boasts more than 45 members from 15 countries and is growing daily. As a “network of networks,” it brings together country chapters of major international anti-corruption groups as well as local civil society organizations fighting to reduce corruption in their countries.
In 2008, the Anti-Corruption Observatory of Central Africa (OLCAC), an anti-corruption network of francophone Central African countries which was established in 2006, requested the World Bank Institute’s (WBI) assistance in better engaging with each other and learning from like-minded organizations. Their response was a weeklong workshop that took place in Dakar, Senegal as part of the Institute’s continuous effort to develop the capacity of civil society as credible actors in the debate on greater effectiveness of government reforms.
Recognizing the broader demand, over 60 civil society groups and networks were invited to submit expressions of interest to participate in the workshop. 30 representatives from 23 anti-corruption organizations, spanning 15 countries were selected on the basis of demonstrated interest and experience in anti-corruption, as well as for their potential as contributors to the governance reform debate.
As a lead up to the workshop, WBI worked with the participants via an online social networking platform to introduce the group, identify critical knowledge and capacity gaps and develop a locally relevant program.
As a “network of networks,” the Réseau GAC brings together country chapters of major international anti-corruption groups as well as local civil society organizations fighting to reduce corruption in their countries.
During the workshop, participants shared tools for monitoring public expenditures, explored participatory, local level budgeting mechanisms. They took part in coalition building activities and were able to assess their ties to one another and to other major international development institutions.
Throughout the workshop, participants familiarized themselves with Frontline SMS, a mobile-based communication tool that allows group members to vote on issues and send messages to each other.
The key outcomes of the workshop were:
- A functional network characterized by ownership
- Just-in-time collective action around concrete issues
- A regional and country-level work program for the network
- Partnerships amongst like-minded organizations
- Facilitated learning and knowledge dissemination via a growing online resource center on anti-corruption
The experience of the Réseau GAC has already yielded important lessons in building and sustaining networks of like-minded organizations, for both members and those who aim to support them in their initiatives. It has proven that through the use of ICT, the network can facilitate communications and collective action among members.
It also shows that a continuous analysis of a network’s strengths and weaknesses is key to long-term effectiveness and that South-South and practitioner-focused learning guarantees relevant solutions for stakeholders in the developing world.