CBNRM Net grew out of several intellectual lines of thought, as well as practical and operational activities, in the World Bank in the 1990s, in which I was actively involved. More specifically, it builds upon two specific initiatives. The first, and most important, was the international workshop on Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) at the World Bank in Washington D.C., 12-14 May 1998, organized by the World Bank "CBNRM Initiative" (Note 2). The applied context for this workshop was to contribute to training and capacity development in natural resource management. The second was the World Bank’s Common Property Resource Management Network (CPRNet), which I created in 1995, the first in-house effort to network World Bank staff and external practitioners and experts, aimed primarily at serving the needs of World Bank investment operations (Note 3).
At the international workshop on CBNRM, the participants were requested to prepare recommendations for concrete follow-up activities. These recommendations were addressed to: (a) the World Bank, (b) the governments in the respective home countries, and (c) the participants themselves. Networking activities under this project were emphasized strongly in these recommendations. In the case of the World Bank, the recommendations overwhelmingly called for a virtual network of and for the participants to be organized. This was understood as necessary, given that most participants did not know each other, worked in different areas and ecosystems, and lived in different countries around the world. Additionally, there was the issue of being able to include and cater to other – including future – CBNRM stakeholders. In fact, there was already at the time the idea that such a networking facility could contribute to establishing a global CBNRM network and Community of Practice (CoP).
As both the members of CPRNet and the participants in the 1998 workshop realized, while CBNRM activities and learning were taking place internationally, there were no means of collecting, structuring, analysing, archiving, repackaging, and disseminating the knowledge produced – that is, key Knowledge Management (KM) activities were not available. A network of these stakeholders, utilizing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), seemed the right thing to set up in order to help this learning take place on a global scale.
The World Bank "CBNRM Initiative" implemented the recommendation to establish such a global network, with the name CBNRM Net, in 1998 (Note 4). The first members were the participants in the 1998 workshop, while CPRNet members and World Bank staff were invited to become members (Note 5). Given the widespread location of its members around the world, it was deemed necessary that it be a virtual network, that is, one that would base its communication strategy primarily on the use of ICTs, specifically Internet and email. It was early on featured on the World Bank's intranet, and gradually also on a dedicated domain (see Sources, Websites).
The rationale behind CBNRM Net is that, as individual CBNRM stakeholders – whether located in public sector, private sector, or civil society – we all experiment and learn from our work. CBNRM Net provides the means with which to share our experiences with others. The key organizing principle for CBNRM Net’s activities is a structured and detailed approach to KM. The organization of the web site and the knowledge architecture it presents is a testimony to this.
- Realize the potential in civil society of participatory approaches and traditional knowledge for managing natural resources.
- Provide a broad and unified network interface for the use of the global CBNRM CoP, emphasizing KM.
- Function as a gateway to, and clearinghouse for, all manner of CBNRM knowledge.
- Be a virtual meeting place for the growing global CoP, thus making possible easy exchange of knowledge, and through this support practical work.
- Advocate the importance of capacity development and training, including determining the role to be played by Internet.
- Produce new knowledge, and move the agenda forward.
Operation and Goals
Key activities, ways of working, and approaches to communication:
- Build knowledge sharing network.
- Foster discussion on emerging trends.
- Provide timely information to decision-makers (in public sector and civil society).
- Share ideas and resources.
- Manage knowledge management – including generating, capturing, and sharing knowledge.
- Be a global Community of practice.
- Establish, share and manage: discussion forums, events, funding opportunities. jobs, online library, partner pages, etc.
- Website to be a go-to place.
- Foster collaboration.
- Give voice to champions.
- Disseminate new ideas.
- Leverage content from the network.
- Support outreach.
- Initiate and facilitate learning dialogues among members in relation to institutional reform.
- Identify and promote awareness of key institutional lessons, as well as institutional options.
- Enhance the capacity of existing communities, networks, stakeholders, and international donors to bring about positive institutional reform.
Two main activities have characterized the operation of CBNRM Net: (1) create the website, build the network, and cater to the needs of its membes, and (2) publish newsletters.
- Website, and Manage Network – Building the website (and also the CBNRM Networking website), and maintaining it. Specifically, populating it with information and documents to realize its knowledge management focus.
- Newsletters – The World Bank CPRNet opted to join CBNRM Net in 2001, and the CPRNet Newsletter series continued as CBNRM Net Newsletters. The CBNRM Net Newsletters were published in the period 2001-2006 (Note 6). Since 2006 the CBNRM Net Newsletters have not been published. There were two main reasons for this: (a) producing and publishing these newsletters was time-consuming, and it was all done by me. Eventually I had to conclude that I could not defend investing time on this. An additional factor was that, although users prised the initiative, very few got involved, even in contributing material, and (b) the whole communication landscape changed due to the near global availability of internet and access to social media. It used to be that several CBNRM Net members could not receive and send email (and if they could, the connection was unreliable and costly), and accordinly did not receive the Newsletter. As an example, for CBNRM Net members that worked on a Deutsche Gesellchaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) project in Mali, stationed in the extreme west of the country, the GIZ office in Bamako printed the Newsletters and delivered them via 4-wheel drive vehicles. A long and cumbersome journey indeed! Furthermore, the increased access to Internet and social media means that many – if not yet all – CBNRM members and practitioners have direct access to a wealth of information.
Lessons learned, positive/constructive and negative/critical, are briefly outlined below (partly adapted from Soeftestad 2007) (Note 6a - items are not listed in any order of priority.)
Lessons Learned – Positive and Constructive
- Geographic spread and possibilities for scaling up.
- Knowledge management is crucial.
- Depending upon the human resources available, emphasis on a limited number of ICTs.
- Human made boundaries remain.
- Knowledge is power.
- Cost-effective, that is, low budget and low overhead.
- Website model easy to implement and use (ideally an open source scalable Content Management System).
- Primarily face-to-face communication, supplemented by virtual communication.
- Egalitarian ethos.
- Easily assessible.
- Available and useful for all relevant stakeholders.
- Focus on knowledge (which is qualitative), and not on data/information (which is quantitative).
- Aimed at producing, analysing, and disseminating knowledge.
- Result oriented.
Lessons Learned – Negative and Critical
- ICTs, including social/business media, cannot replace face-to-face interaction.
- Little south-south communication and knowledge sharing.
- Managing a network can be solitary and lonely work.
- All members have to contribute.
- If a member wants to benefit s/he has to contribute, starting with the latter is necessary.
- Dependent upon one or a few dedicated sponsors.
- Requires a focused topic.
Lessons Learned – Challenges
- Getting all members to be active.
- Getting members to communicate between themselves, not just with the network management.
- ICTs used to communicate in virtual networks need to be problematized.
- Face-to-face relations / communication versus virtual communication – a balance needs to be found.
- Websites needs to be simple.
- Focus on how to make knowledge available.
Preliminary Assessment of Networks as Means of Communication and Tools
The overall theme of CBNRM, and accordingly CBNRM Net, is globalization. That is, CBNRM Net is understood as presenting new sets of tools – or existing tools packaged in a new / different way – for natural resource and CBNRM management in the contemporary context of globalization. This raises the following important question: what kind of criteria can be identified for networks to function as such a tool? The following are some issues that should be considered in this connection:
- The term and idea of “network” is often understood in a limited way. As a general rule, it is understood largely as a horizontal – and sometimes as a vertical – integration of stakeholders. In either case, the coverage is further limited by it applying to only specific categories of stakeholders, defined either in terms of their specific interests and/or responsibilities (e.g., researchers), or by their relationship to each other (employed in a specific project, or working within a specific sector). The idea of networks is most dynamic and productive when it manages to, first, integrate a multitude of stakeholders, and, second, do so both along vertical and horizontal societal axes.
- There is a tendency to understand networks as tools in connection with specific types of foci, as well as stakeholders. This is usually limited to include civil society in general, and to research-oriented agendas.
- Networks have optimal relevance when they span the public sector, the private (commercial) sector, and civil society.
- The problem with lack of communication is by many addressed at the macro-level (the country level and beyond), or primarily there. The macro-level is understood to be a bottleneck, and is given much attention. Following an alternative rationale, if we manage to make the micro-level work, the macro-level will follow. The most important thing that the macro-level can contribute to facilitate changes at the micro-level is possibly legal reform.
- The communication strategy of networks, specifically decisions on the type of ICTs to use where and when and for/with whom and what purpose, should follow from a needs assessment that differentiates and connects needs with available resources, goals, tools, and means of communication.
- ICTs are often overused and misunderstood. Use of the Internet needs to be balanced with other means of communication. The goal should be a broad communication strategy that can reach all stakeholders, and that is relevant to all.
- The present-day use of the Internet largely builds upon, as well as reinforces, a traditional North-South axis of communication.
- Web sites have official and ideal purposes. They also have less obvious or declared purposes. One of them is to inform stakeholders in the North about what the network does. The aim is often to attract resources, especially funding. Even when the overt aim with web sites is to communicate with and engage local stakeholders they often fail. The rationale is that once information is placed on a web site it is considered as published. These are two examples of traditional North-South communication.
- There are huge benefits to be reaped in increased communication established along networks that span the traditional lines of division – in terms of time use, results, and economics.
- Traditional thinking, partly based on traditional lines of division between subject areas, together with a proprietary attitude towards knowledge, is the biggest obstacle to increased networking. Problems like language and culture are, perhaps surprisingly, of less importance.
- Traditional networks, specifically those relying on web-based communication strategies, focus on disseminating knowledge to members, staff, and/or subscribers. Such top-down approaches are fundamentally one-way monologues, and are less likely to succeed.
- The best, most active, and functional networks are those that evolve from the bottom-up, and that gradually organize, formalize, and acquire funding.
- In the not too distant future networks, specifically those that connect communities of practice, will become key producers of development cooperation relevant knowledge.
From World Bank to CBNRM Networking
The network was coordinated by me from the beginning. When I left the World Bank in 2000 to move back to Norway, there was no interest in the World Bank to take it over and continue these important networking activities. Accordingly, since 2000 the Network has been managed out of Norway, formally as a project of the Norwegian NGO CBNRM Networking (Note 7).
Output – Internal and External
The following types of documents have been produced so far by CBNRM Net: Presentations (e.g., Soeftestad (2007), newsletter series, membership registration form, and lists of members. Furthermore, the following articles have been published, based on CBNRM Net: Soeftestad (2001, 2002), and Soeftestad and Kashwan (2004).
Looking Back and to the Future
CPRNet and the World Bank CBNRM Initiative were success stories, in and of themselves, and in their impact on World Bank operations. However, neither were followed up and mainstreamed in the World Bank. As for CBNRM Networking, its basis remains solidly in civil society, as well as in the public sector in developing and transition countris, and it has proven its usefullness and impact.
Lars T. Soeftestad
(1) This article is adapted from the original text published on the World Bank's intranet in 1998, as well as on CBNRM Net's and Supras Limited's websites (see links in Sources below).
(2) See Devblog article "World Bank CBNRM Initiative" (Note 9).
(3) See Devblog article "World Bank CPNet" (Note 9).
(4) The terms "network" and "networking" are addressed in Devblog article "Networks and Networking" (Note 9).
(5) There were a noticeable overlap between these categories, in that several CPRNet members were World Bank staff members, while both CPNet memberrs and World Bank staff members had participated in the 1998 CBNRM workshop.
(6) All Newsletters, including the CPRNet Newsletter series (1998-2001) and the CBNRM Net Newsletter series (2001-2006), together with other documents, are available on the CBNRM Net website, and on my profile on Academia.edu (see Sources).
(7) See Devblog article "CBNRM Networking (Note 9).
(8) Image credit: Copyright © CBNRM Networking. About: The image shows the nameplate or logo of the CBNRM Net Newsletter, in this case no. 26 (April 2006).
(9) Related Devblog articles: (a) CBNRM Overview, at: https://www.devblog.no/en/article/cbnrm-overview; (b) World Bank "CPRNet", at: https://www.devblog.no/en/article/world-bank-cprnet; (c) World Bank "CBNRM Initiative", at: https://www.devblog.no/en/article/world-bank-cbnrm-initiative; (d) CBNRM Networking, at: https://www.devblog.no/en/article/cbnrm-networking; (e) Networks and networking, at: https://www.devblog.no/en/article/networks-and-networking
(10) Permalink: https://devblog.no/en/article/cbnrm-net
(11) This article was published 17 July 2019. It was revised 22 May 2020.
Soeftestad, Lars. 2001. Community-based natural resource managemenet: knowledge management and knowledge sharing in the age of globalization. CBNRM Net Papers, no. 1 (August 2001)
Soeftestad, Lars. 2002. CBNRM Net: Knowledge management and networking for the global CBNRM community of practice. CBNRM Net Papers, no. 3 (June 2002).
Soeftestad, Lars, Anna van der Heijden, and Tony Pryor. 2006. Knowledge management and natural resources in Africa: Perspectives from two networks. Knowledge Management for Development Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 105-118, May 2006. (Note: also available in: CBNRM Net Papers, no. 8, May 2006.)
Soeftestad, Lars. 2007. "ICT-based networks as communities of practice: Past, present and future". Presentation at the World Bank, Washington D.C., 28 June 2017.
Soeftestad, Lars and Prakash Kashwan. 2004. CBNRM Net: From managing natural resources to managing ecosystems, knowledge and people. In: Arno Scharl, ed. Environmental online communication, pp. 235-250. London: Springer. ISBN 1-85233-783-4.
CBNRM Net. URL: http://www.cbnrm.net/
CBNRM Net. International Workshop on CBNRM (Washington D.C., 10-14 May 1998). URL: http://cbnrm.net/web/cbnrm98/index.html
CBNRM Networking. URL: https://www.cbnrm.org/
CPRNet. URL: http://http://www.cbnrm.net/web/cprnet/
Soeftestad, Lars. Research output available on Academia.edu. URL: https://lars.academia.edu/research
Supras Limited. URL: http://www.supras.biz/
World Bank. URL: http://www.worldbank.org/
World Bank. International workshop on CBNRM (Washington D.C., 10-14 May 1998). URL: http://web.archive.org/web/20010913004244/http://www.worldbank.org/wbi/conatrem (Note: deleted from World Bank servers in 2001. Available thanks to the good people at archive.org.)