the Annual General Meeting of Orbicom, in April 1999, an Action
Plan was approved. One of the activities to be undertaken by
the Secretariat during the coming year was a membership-wide
discussion on Networking. Specifically, it was envisaged that
this initiative would make a major contribution to the strengthening
of the very young international network on communication, Orbicom.
decision to undertake this Networking initiative was based, in
part, on the presentation of Part 1 of a Network Issues Paper
by Martha Stone. This concept paper was expanded later during
the year. It is this two-part Issues paper that has served as
the background document for the Networking initiative, and can
be referred to at the Orbicom Web site (http://www.orbicom.uqam.ca/en/forum).
is the final report of the Networking initiative, which concluded
its activities on the 5th of April, 2000. The initiative
was divided into three phases, with the objectives of: 1) forming
a consensus on the nature, role, and structure of the Network;
2) defining the responsibilities of the members of the Network
Chair holders, Associate members, and the Networks
Secretariat; and 3) proposing project activities that would be
the embodiment of the collaborative nature of the Network.
GROUP ON NETWORKING
first phase was an electronic Focus Group on Networking. Twenty
members of Orbicom, representing the rich diversity of the Network
membership, in terms of geography and subject specialization,
participated in a three-week listserv discussion. A two-part background
concept document on Networking, prepared by the Moderator, Martha
Stone, set the context for the discussion. In total, six questions
were considered. Initially, three general questions were posed
and the discussion of these lead to three additional detailed
Why a Global Network? Do you believe that in order for Orbicom
to be an effective international organization in the field of
communications, there must be a consensus amongst its members
as to the nature of the Orbicom Network, that is, its construct,
function, and responsibilities?
2. Role of a Concept Document: If the answer to the above
question is yes, do you believe that the Concept document on Networking
is useful in providing a conceptual basis for developing this
3. Missing Elements: Using the Concept document
as a building block, what elements are missing from the concepts
presented in the document that are required to make the transition
from theory to concrete program action?
4. Strengthening our existing Network: How can the
characteristics of the two categories of members, the UNESCO Chair
holders and the Associate members be turned into a powerful voice
in the international arena of communications? How to turn what
might be seen as a weakness into strength, with the ability to
influence our societies at all levels?
5. Membership Survey: Building upon the suggestion to undertake
an analysis of the composition of our existing Network, how could
it be effectively designed and structured to feed into the membership-wide
electronic discussion group?
6. Effective Models for Communication: Recognizing
the need to balance content and process, what models are available
to ensure open and dynamic communications between and amongst
the membership of the Orbicom Network?
is important to note that a dynamic and open discussion of these
questions and related issues resulted in a common view that the
Orbicom Network although still evolving, with all the inherent
challenges, is alive and well. There is clear evidence that a
solid framework exists for a vital and relevant Network. [Please
note that the Synthesis of the Focus Group Discussion (15 November
to10 December, 1999) has been posted on Orbicom web site, and
a summary has been published in the Winter issue of the Orbicom
Focus Group participants felt strongly that a Membership Survey
was an important activity to be undertaken before proceeding to
a membership wide electronic discussion. It was seen as necessary
to 1) determine the perceived requirements of the Orbicom Network;
2) ascertain the individual members specialization and interests;
3) goals for the network, at all levels global, regional,
national, and personal; 4) and views about how the differences
between the UNESCO chair holders and the Associate members can
be turned into unifying strengths for the Orbicom Network.
Membership Survey, designed by the Secretariat, with input
by the Focus Group Moderator, concluded in mid-February 2000.
The analysis of the Survey has been published in the Orbicom Newsletter
and is posted on its web site. However, for this report, it is
useful to repeat a few findings, for they are relevant to the
final observations and recommendations.
most important characteristic of the Network is the sharing of
knowledge and experiences with other professionals and academics,
both inside and outside the same area of specialization.
categories of members wish to contribute to the Network by participating
in research projects and activities, discussion groups and seminars
in order to share their experiences and particular perspective
exchanges and personal contacts are prerequisite to the functioning
and sustainability of the Network. There is a requirement to establish
new alliances with other like-minded organizations and agencies
(international NGOs, multilateral agencies, etc.); and help UNESCO
Chair Holders and Associate members work together.
For most members, e-mail discussion groups allow the highest level
of interaction amongst members. This mechanism is seen as encouraging
the sharing of experiences regardless of geographical location,
and it is seen as saving precious human and financial resources.
to using electronic communication tools were identified as a lack
of standardization of communication systems, and a lack of face-to-face
Orbicom Web site was identified as an important tool to facilitate
in meeting the objective of information exchange and helping Network
members work together. Many members see the Web site as the venue
for learning about the activities and research of other members,
as well as a source for keeping up to date on current news. This
being said, it is also true that lack of time was credited for
not visiting the Orbicom web site frequently.
FORUM ON NETWORKING
third phase of the Networking initiative began on March 14th,
2000, with the beginning of a two-week membership-wide On-Line
Forum on Networking.
after registering to participate in the On-Line Forum, were invited
to read the background documents that led up to this final phase.
(They have been referred to previously.) The central question
addressed in this Forum was: "What to do together, and
set the parameters for having an interactive discussion on this
fundamental question several days were allocated to discussing
the Roles and Responsibilities of the membership of Orbicom. Specifically,
the following questions were posed:
1. Strengths and Weaknesses: What are the strengths that
our categories of members, UNESCO Chair holders and Associates,
bring to Orbicom? If weaknesses do exist, how can they be addressed?
2. Focus: If we accept that an international network
is an efficient mechanism to address the critical issues in communication,
in broad terms, where should we be focusing our energies in making
the Orbicom Network viable?
3. Regional and International Joint Initiatives:
Our membership represents various communities, as well as subjects
of interest. To ensure that we, the members, collaborate meaningfully
amongst ourselves, what do you see as concrete joint initiatives
that we could undertake, over the next two years, either on a
regional or an international basis?
Secretariat: Based upon the Membership Survey responses, there
appears that there is some confusion regarding the role of the
Orbicom Secretariat and what it does. Can we discuss some of the
ways in which the Secretariat can support the collaborative programs
that hopefully will develop? Given that the Secretariats
role is more than financial, what are some of the other areas
in which the Secretariat should be engaged?
were the principal questions around which the discussion took
place. It is worthy of note that the results of the Membership
Survey were reflected in this discussion. For although some attention
was given to the role and responsibilities of the members, almost
all the interventions addressed the issue of focus and proposals
for joint initiatives that would demonstrate the collaborative
nature of an international communications network. The Summary
of the Discussion on Roles and Responsibilities presents the detailed
responses to the above questions so they will not be repeated
in this report.
following is a quote from one of the interventions in the On-Line
Forum on Networking:
costs of networks in money, time and energy are high, especially
at the front end, making any network which does not last beyond
2-3 years especially wasteful. Often to the frustration of donors
and [network] members who want quick results and clear impacts,
networks need time to: a) to develop, estimates are 5-7 years;
b) to establish links with policy-makers; and c) to generate legitimacy
within the communication sector.
put on networks to show concrete products and progress in the
short-term, and decisions to withdraw support quickly where they
dont, ironically risk undermining the very capacity and
impact for which they aim.
dont produce much fruit in only a few years; the foundation
is set and opportunities exist, but the risk is that everything
will disappear if donors back out to soon
critical challenge to a viable Network is the time required for
building a sense of solidarity and ownership. At this stage of
Network development there is a need to build a sense of solidarity
amongst our members, between our UNESCO Chair holders and Associate
members within a regional and within the Network as a whole. It
is the sense of ownership that takes time. For without that
ownership, that "buy-in" by all members, the Network
will not survive.
all three phases of this initiative, the participants stated clearly
that the roles and responsibilities of the various partners in
the network must be clearly articulated. There should be no confusion
about the facilitating role of the Secretariat; the policy making
function of the Board of Directors, or the research agenda setting
by the responsible committee and by the Board of Directors.
is required on the status of the permanent Committees. Although
the 1999 Annual General Meeting approved the restructuring of
Committees, this information needs to be presented again to the
membership. The implication is obvious when priorities are set
for the project proposals approved at the AGM and the large number
of joint initiatives proposed during the On-Line Forum on Networking.
combination of academic and practical knowledge is strength of
the Orbicom Network. Although not fully utilized, there is a unique
potential in the blend of academics and professional practitioners,
grouped in categories of UNESCO Chair holders and Associate members.
The later have a chance to capitalize on the research carried
out by the Chair holders or made available via them. The former
have the opportunity to generate interest in business and other
circle for their work, to get input, not only by their applied
research, but also to their basic research and theory building
from experienced professionals. This concept aims at tearing down
barriers between academics and professional practitioners.
exists an inherent weakness in the interface between the practitioners
and the academics, which must be overcome. Firstly, we do not
really communicate across the dividing line of theory and practice.
Secondly, each member, either by category or sector, believes
that his or her category or sector is the most important. On one
hand it is perceived that the Chair holders, in general, prefer
to discuss and network amongst themselves. While on the other
hand, the professional practitioners question what value they
have within the Orbicom Network, and what contribution they might
make. It must never be forgotten that both categories of members
joined the Network to assist in the development of communication
research, and interventions, and the dissemination of its results.
toward a solution, we, as members of the Orbicom Network, "must
respect our differences and tackle the same subjects from our
" We have within our membership
those, because of their backgrounds, who are suitable "bridge-builders"
between the two communities. "We must take that responsibility
very seriously, in order not to waste a truly valuable intellectual
the Orbicom Network evolves, partnerships and alliances, external
to the network, with like-minded actors will have to be forged.
During the three-phases of discussions, Orbicoms relationship
with UNESCO was frequently cited. Specific issues to be addressed
have not been articulated, however, several discussants believed
that if the relationship between Orbicom and UNESCO did not improve,
the capacity for the Orbicom Network to be relevant in the international
fora would be greatly compromised. There is evidence that this
matter is currently being addressed by the Secretariat.
foster partnerships and alliances with multilateral organizations,
the Network, via the Board of Directors and the Committee structure
should identify issues that would link Orbicom with like-minded
agencies on a long term basis. Members who are knowledgeable about
these critical issues of concern to Orbicom could serve as representatives
or advocates at international fora, i.e. UNESCO, WIPO, and WTO.
subject of partnership was also raised with respect to the interaction
between the Orbicom Network and the private sector. This is an
area that requires more focused attention, however, the fact that
there are challenges deserves comment at this time.
major importance is the challenge of responding to the commercialization
of knowledge that raises issues such as intellectual property
rights and collaboration between public and private sector initiatives.
The implications of such collaboration, although of great potential,
must be fully understood.
for Joint Initiatives: As mentioned previously, the Summary
of Joint Initiatives will be attached as Annex 1 to this report.
However, it is important to make some observations to place the
list in context.
joint initiatives, the Knowledge Network and Learning to Learn
Regional Training Workshops were approved at the Annual General
Meeting in April 1999. Although a budget has not been clearly
identified, these two initiatives represent the support of the
membership, by its approval. In setting program priorities, this
reality must be taken into consideration.
considerations. With the exception of one or two initiatives,
there is no reference to budget or proposed sources of funding.
This is a critical issue, for it is clearly understood that the
Secretariat does not have the resources to fund program activities.
In the one or two exceptions, there are indications regarding
possible sources of funding. However, as of this report, there
is no overall funding strategy for Orbicom. This fact underscores
the need for a dynamic committee structure that will address program
priorities and funding strategies.
Structure: In nearly eight weeks of consultation with the
membership of the Orbicom Network, valuable input was received
about why the Orbicom Network should exist, what it should be,
and what activities should be undertaken to visibly demonstrate
a dynamic and relevant network. It is interesting to note that
very little discussion was directed to the process for achieving
the desired results are going to be realized, it is recommended
that the committee structure be revitalized and strengthened.
In April of last year, the AGM approved the restructuring
of the formal Committees. Little has happened since then. If any
of the joint initiatives are going to be implemented, after the
approval of the Board of Directors, there must be an active and
rigorous Committee that will provide oversight to the various
project initiatives. It is therefore recommended
that the name of the Research and Publications Committee be changed
to the Program Committee. The Committee must be involved
in the priority setting and its chairman must be accountable to
the Board of Directors for the achievements of the Networks
Mobilization Strategy: Reference has already been made to
a funding strategy for the many join initiatives that have been
proposed. This is only one component of a Resource Rationalization
Strategy, for there are many activities and functions that require
has been said about the role of the Secretariat beyond that of
facilitating the collaborative efforts of the network. However,
it is the Secretariat that requires significant core funding,
which in today environment is very difficult to obtain. The possible
sources of funding for core support are completely different from
project funding sources.
resources are just a component of a Resource Mobilization strategy.
One must factor in support "in kind", selling of services
and expertise, etc. If the Network is going to remain viable,
it must be able to demonstrate to all categories of donors that
a resource rationalization strategy exists. The policy-making
role of the Board of Directors and the implementation role of
the Secretariat must also be very clearly articulated.
is strongly recommended that a Resource Mobilization Strategy
be incorporated in the Five-Year Business Plan for the Orbicom
issue of the relationship between the public and private sector,
although raised as important, did not receive serious attention
during the various discussions. It is therefore recommended
that a working group, under the guidance of the Finance Committee
present a position paper on the Orbicom Network and the Private
Sector. The Board of Directors should approve the Terms of
Reference, and the position paper with recommendations should
be presented to the Board, via the Finance Committee.
importance of fund raising can not be over emphasized. This is
a function that can not be carried out by the Secretariat alone.
It is therefore recommended that members of the Finance Committee
be selected on their ability to provide sound fiscal advice to
Orbicom as well as their ability to garner resources for
the approved programs of the Network. This must be done within
the context of the Resource Mobilization Strategy.
Two Solitudes: Many excellent ideas have been expressed during
this Networking initiative about how to break down the perceived
barriers between the community of members represented by the Chair
holders and the community of members represented by the Associate
Members. The recommendations for action are contained in the background
and synthesis documents referred to earlier.
a short-term action, it is recommended that if the meeting
of UNESCO Chair holders is held in Mexico, this year, that the
Secretary General make a presentation of the Report of the Networking
initiative; with special attention given to the discussions on
the two categories of members working together, and the proposed
joint initiatives that should be exciting to all potential partners.
a more permanent action, it is recommended that the newly named
Program Committee be co-chaired by members from the two categories
Network members, a UNESCO Chair holder and an Associate member.
This will ensure that the two perspectives will be brought to
bear on the decisions regarding program initiatives.
the various discussions of the Network initiative, the two categories
of members, the UNESCO Chair holders and the Associate members
were referred to when speaking of barriers to communication or
when reviewing several of the joint initiatives and the narrative
in support of the proposal, it is clear that many members interested
in development communication believe that their sector is not
being given due attention. This is particularly true when some
members are working in regions of the world where electronic communication
is recommended, therefore, that as the Board of Directors and
the Secretariat prioritize program initiatives and arrange for
their implementation, that due recognition be given to the communication
challenges of members in developing regions of the world.
Dialogue amongst the Network Members: In reviewing the proposals
for joint initiatives, it is interesting to note that the outputs
for some are discussion groups, usually electronic. Even though
the active participation in the Focus Group and the On-Line Forum
was not very high, it was enthusiastic, and it was quite evident
that this was a very effective instrument for two-way consultation.
Valuable input can be obtained for policy setting and program
development. This mechanism for communication should continue.
is recommended, therefore, that a mechanism be created to facilitate
dialogue amongst the membership.
an example, the Secretariat could host a non-moderated informal
"discussion room" on the web site. Members would be
encouraged to present issues they would like to be discussed.
In this scenario, the presenter will serve as the moderator for
a designated period of time.
will be a visible indicator of the ability of the membership to
voice their opinions and to be heard throughout the year. The
result should be full ownership of the Network.
B. Stone & Claude-Yves