4 min read
When I was first approached to become AVPN’s next CEO, I could not be more hesitant. Not only had I not managed a non-profit organization before, but I was also not convinced that a network could ultimately improve lives on the ground. 6 years on, I have witnessed, first-hand, how AVPN can influence mindsets, build communities, change the status quo and have a multiplier effect on the impact that its members can achieve.
The word ‘impact’ has been overused, especially in the development sector, and I have seen the pitfalls of impact-washing especially when used in the context of capital deployment. But, what makes a network like AVPN truly “impactful” is the people who belong to it: the staff, the members and its partners. I always say that a network is what the people who belong to it, make of it. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force him to drink.
In other words, AVPN is not simply a portal for investors to find partners, or for non-profits to find funding, or a forum to acquire industry insights. It is not a feel-good vehicle for altruism or a platform for on-the-side CSR projects. When members join an impact network like AVPN, it signals their commitment to integrate impact into their operations in a more holistic way. This decision to belong to an impact-driven community is a positive affirmation of the organisation’s impact philosophy. In turn, networks must deliver on their promise by addressing the organisation’s pain-points, supporting them in achieving their goals, and cultivating warm relationships that cut across sectors.
The power of the network fully comes into action when each member, staff and partner is an ambassador of the association, championing the value of collaboration and driving impact as a part of the larger community.
Why are networks important in Asia?
Social challenges are complex in Asia, and they are not getting any less complicated. The climate crisis has been one of the most pressing issues on my mind. While its ramifications are being seen across the globe, it is Asia that finds itself at the forefront. With fatal consequences ahead, this is a problem that can and must be solved now, when we still have time.
While it is true that businesses, governments and social enterprises are growing increasingly sophisticated in their impact strategies, they remain far from their full potential. No one alone has the best strategies or resources to make the needed changes, yet collaborating towards shared goals is often the exception rather than the rule.
I can understand, of course, that collaborations are more difficult than they first appear. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, especially not in climate action. We need the policymaker, the investor, the researcher, the implementer, the beneficiary, the impact assessor, each with a seat at the table. And this is where the network plays a vital role, to be more than a congregator; to be a neutral facilitator.
How can you make the most of a network?
Becoming part of a network is more than just receiving a member service. My advice for members to make the most of impact networks will be to:
Use it to drive a movement and champion the causes that matter most to you
One of the most common goals of our members is to raise awareness about the issues they are passionate about. The difficulty, however, is the lack of resources to drive their own campaigns: Internally, many of our members helm an incredibly small team; externally, the challenge is finding the right partners, investment opportunities and industry knowledge to make better decisions. The network can come in to address these resource challenges. At AVPN, we have a whole suite of expertise to help our members to magnify their impact.
Be vocal about your needs
To help the network support you, though, you need to take the initiative to voice your needs. In return, good networks must be flexible in providing different services according to their members’ needs. This means staying updated with each other, having regular conversations, check-ins, and feedback sessions.
Share your success to inspire others
At the same time, feed the network with your successful impact stories so that the platform can boost your visibility through its communication channels. When you share these good news, a proactive network will take the opportunity to expand these stories into case-studies and learning opportunities for fellow members and industry practitioners to learn from you and your brand.
Contribute to the success of the network
Ultimately, the success of the network is your success. By joining a network, it not only means seeing yourself as part of the solution, you become a community-builder – gathering resources for the community so that everyone can thrive. At the same time, being part of a community gives you a competitive edge so that you can leverage the credibility of expert practitioners within the same network to gain easier buy-in. So, do not hesitate to enlist your team to be a champion for the network and promote it!