JOHANNESBURG, 20 August 2019: A month ago, at the PRISA 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) I announced the two key strategies for the year ahead being networking and research. Reflecting on the various events, big and small during the past month alerted me to some key facts of networking. Networking may be seen as an essential skill in public relations, however it is seldom analysed and often assigned to an individual skill to gain social capital.
Some aspects of networking I experienced this past month include:
- Energy: During a meeting with the PRISA representative team Victor Sibeko and Noxolo “Noxie” Gogo at Service SETA, Emma Mbele quoted the definition of ‘energy’ as the power to do something. How apt when one is proposing a complex and ambitious project which will benefit PRISA, communities and the Services SETA. The networking skill applying to this context was the energy to listen, question and co-create opportunities that will ensure progression of the proposal to the next stage of decision making.
- Perseverance: Success in networking takes time! Continuous investment of time and interacting over a period (from days to sometimes years) are required before results may be seen. What was true for me during the last month was that projects started many years ago, like my doctoral study required perseverance and ‘keep on keeping on”. Like the Chinese proverb says: “Don’t fear moving slowly, only fear standing still”.
- Recording: Recording as well as recollecting previous efforts to implement proposals and projects are essential for building the strength of a network (perhaps akin to the ‘fuel’ of networks). Keeping records of meetings and decisions are regular practice but how can data be collected quicker, more effectively? Should it be made available via an open resource repository?
- Adaptability: Adaptability does not only refer to the amazing ability of humans to adapt to their environment in order to survive but in the context of networking it also refers to the skill of adjusting a plan or project according to the needs and ideas of others. There is no place for forcing ideas down on others and expecting them to just accept what you have on offer or what you are planning. Collaboration, co-development and co-creating solutions cannot be done in isolation or by one person. It is always a cooperative structure and others need to be acknowledge for their part in reaching different milestones.
- Engagements: Much is said in theory about the power of engagement when building relationships but engagement is more than just ensuring an opportunity for individuals to share ideas, emotions and views. Engagement is an action verb, requiring from those planning and interacting to respect others, listen to other views and demonstrating a willingness to adapt their views and projects based on the newly discovered knowledge.
- Resilience: Resilience is more than being adaptable or persevering, it is about ‘revisiting, rethinking and redressing’. Understanding yourself, your emotions and actions within a specific context include asking yourself some critical questions. What do I want to achieve with this individual/s, how am I going to maintain the connection and build a network to mutual benefit
These aspects are by no means complete or exclusive to my experiences. Please feel free to add your interpretation of networking and in so doing take part in the conversations I would like us to have within our communities of practice. You are welcome to make contact with me via PRISA firstname.lastname@example.org or my email@example.com address.
Kindest of regards
Dr. Dalien René Benecke