Communication structure and information distribution in an Indian NGO network -A case study of the YRSHR-network

Postgraduate

Abstract

 

The aim of this master’s thesis is to examine how communication structures within an inter-organisational network affect the network activities. Questions posed are: who communicates with whom; how does the communication structure affect information distribution; does the structure support the intended function of the network; are the participants satisfied with the information received; and how does the network structure affect the network sustainability. The theoretical starting point is the convergence model of communication applied in an analytic network context. Questionnaires were sent out to the network members and interviews were undertaken with some of the network participants. 

 

The Young People’s Reproductive Sexual Health and Rights (YRSHR) network was founded in 2000. MAMTA-Health Institute for Mother and Child took the initiative since there was a lack of organisations that targeted the group of adolescents. The network consists of approximately 90 NGO's located in five different Indian states. In each state there is a state facilitating agency, (SFA) that is responsible for co-ordinating the network activities. The SFAs are also responsible for information dissemination and collection of activity reports from the local organisations (LO) in the state. MAMTA acts as a co-ordinating agency for the entire network on a national level and functions as a gatekeeper between the different states. According to centrality analysis, MAMTA does not have control or influence over the communication in each state. We believe that it is important to have a continuous information exchange that is built upon the participation and mutual exchange by the network actors. The YRSHR-network is low in density and this may be an indication of the member’s low inclination to engage in network activities. Still, the members regarded the YRSHR-issues as important and the mutual exchange between members a priority. The communication structure is an effective way of disseminating information, but it does not support the members’ participation in the information exchange or the development of more complex network tasks. To assure the sustainability of the network, a feedback system where the members can document their experiences and knowledge would benefit the active participation in the information accumulation and thus help to sustain the network.

Introduction

In organisational theory, networks have been used to illustrate both an organisational principle, as well as informal communication structures within organisations. Put into practice, the network principle has also frequently been used between organisations as a strategy to give collective strength in actions. Networking enables members without surrendering their autonomy to establish linkages, assist in communication and share information. It is also a mean for overcoming isolation of individual actions by providing access to like-minded, experienced individuals, groups and organisations. New ideas and concepts are conceived and elaborated through interaction among members and these interactions in turn lead to a common base around specific issues. 

 

An increased part of the Swedish government social development aid is directed towards Non Government Organisations (NGO’s). By supporting NGO’s, the donor state hopes to avoid government ineffectiveness and inequalities of the market. NGO’s have an advantage of being small, are supposed to have high involvement by its members, a democratic structure and to be in general effective. The ties between different NGO’s in a network are intended to be effective and flexible tools. It is the relations that are important rather than status or group affiliation (Uggla, Support for Civil Society: 5pp).


Distribution and diffusion of information is crucial for every network regardless of the topics in focus. According to the organisation’s character, NGO-networks are often described as effective information distributors which also lead them to be a penetrating power considering idea and knowledge diffusion. While stating this, one usually refers to the external information, but to be able to be a striking power, the information inside the network is of vital importance. Therefore we decided to study the internal information structure in an inter-organisational NGO-network and the ties of communication which are intimately connected to the issue. 

 

In order to select a suitable network for our study, we contacted the Swedish embassy in New Delhi. They have some insight in NGO’s activities in the country and they made the first selection for us. With their recommendations we sent out inquiries to about ten different organisations involved in networking. We received positive answers from some of them, but selected MAMTA, a health institute for mother and child, and the YRSHR-(Young People's Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights) network by several reasons: MAMTA has entered into a long-term partnership with Sida in order to work with a programme aiming at building beneficial environment for adolescents to attain reproductive and sexual health. This project also gets technical support from the Swedish agency RFSU (Riksförbundet För Sexuell Upplysning). Together MAMTA and RFSU have a twinning project that has the aim of mutual capacity building. Sharing information, research and the skills of conducting training on YRSHR issues is part of the project. In our contacts with MAMTA, they expressed a genuine interest to have a network analysis done and felt that this could contribute further in their understanding of networking. 


Presentation of the YRSHR-network 

 

“Globally, the largest share of adolescents and young people is and will continue to be in Asia (UNFPA 1998). India has an adolescent population of 200 million and overall youth (10-24 years) of around 300million and this age group is rapidly expanding in India and many countries. At 1.05 billion globally, today it is the largest generation ever of young people between 15 and 24 years. Worldwide statistics reveal that 11 percent of young women (about 29 million) aged 15-19 are sexually active, and are not using any form of contraceptive (the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1998). It has been estimated that there has been an increase of 20-60 percent in unplanned pregnancies in young women under 20 years in developing countries (WHO, 1997)” (YRSHRYoung Peoples Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, 2003). In India, the outreach of the government health and family welfare programmes starts after an individual is married and practically ends by the time the offspring is five years old. Despite adolescence and youth being crucial phases of life, very little data is available to explain their special biological, psychological and emotional needs. Lack of information about their needs means that service providers are ill equipped to deal with these groups. There is some information about the married

adolescents/young people in India, but very little is known about the unmarried ones. Researchers in the country have only recently begun investigating adolescent/youth sexuality in depth

(MAMTA, 2001, “Adolescent Health and Development in India”).