14. 12. 2011.

Power of the network

“Ask not what your network can do for you—ask what you can do for your network J
Small boat represents NGO network trying to save nature (c) drawing Bjanka Prakljačić

2008 brought new energy to my organisation (Young Researchers of Serbia), and many other, organizations in Serbia. It was a key year for the establishment of collaboration with WWF and a very important year for stronger cooperation with other NGOs in Serbia. At that time we, Serbian NGOs, knew each other; we also knew organizations from Montenegro but we were missing “something” to be more organized. The “something” came with a project supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we created a network for working on EU nature related acquis. Then, in 2009 we were supported by the EC – DG Environment for capacity building and it was perfectly matched.
We all had a positive experience on national, regional and international levels and naturally and spontaneously the project “Partnership actions for biodiversity protection in Western Balkans” was the next step. 
Partnership is a strong word! During the implementation of the project we made it stronger. What partnership on the project brought to me and my organization was positive spirit and stress; good ideas and actions; a lot of question marks and then sudden happiness when we understood what our partners meant; new knowledge, tips and tricks; a new understanding of our partners’ work and plans; some clear ideas about “what and with whom I wouldn’t like to work in the future” and many, many other things!
Another strong word and more important, frequently pronounced and written during the project period, is “networking”. Our network of NGOs has 56 member organizations, 4 working groups and Young Researchers of Serbia is the network secretariat. It is not easy at all! So many things to be considered. Sometimes too demanding but.....it is great! What is the value of the network? Well, after almost 4 years working within the network I can say that I can answer all questions regarding nature, nature protection, EU acquis, Natura 2000 in Serbia etc. 
No, no, no....I am not so advanced J  I have colleagues in the network, many of them, with the different professional background, with different knowledge, experience....and thanks to the reliable information exchange methods I can get  answers. We can all ask each other any question and rely on each other. Of course, we have a number of sleeping members and sometimes we face a lot of difficulties to involve them in activities....but slowly, slowly we will motivate them to be more active.
To conclude, NETWORK is the most significant change that happened to me in the last 730 days (during this project)! Working with others on different project activities made me understand the importance of being networked and has motivated me to do what is necessary to make the network function. 

Milka Gvozdenovic, Young Researchers of Serbia

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