The importance of networks and the partnership culture

Instituto de Apoio à Criança (The Child Support Institute) is a part of several networks, both national and international ones.

In Portugal, we act as animators and organizers for the Rede Construir Juntos (Building Together Network). We're also a part of the European Anti-Poverty Network (Rede Europeia Anti-Pobreza) - Portugal.

Furthermore, we're also partners of the European Social Action Network (ESAN), the European Foundation for Street Children Worldwide (EFSCW), the European Federation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, the International Association for the Child's Right to Play, the European Association for Children in Hospital (EACH), the International Toy Library Association (ITLA), and, on occasion,  we also collaborate with other European or international networks.

The fact that we're apart of these networks, provides added-value to our work, seeing as it allows us to acquire and/or share practical and theoretical knowledge, as well as having contact with other methods of intervention, showing young people we work with different realities through some of the exchange we have going, amongst other things.

Using the word "network" to describe a set of organisations, isn't exactly a new idea. After all, organisations have long since established relationships between themselves in order to achieve common goals. However, they've had a second wind in the so-called 'Information Age', by resorting to the new information and communication technologies, such as the Internet.

Most organisation networks of civil society, have as their goals to promote:  the circulation and exchange of information, the sharing of experiences, collaboration in activities and projects; collective learning and innovation; the strengthening of bonds between its members; maintenance of the spirit of community; and the expansion of the groups lobbying power.

In a plainer way, according to Elza Chambel (a partner of the IAC) "a social network is a system capable of bringing people and organisations together, in a egalitarian and democratic fashion, so new commitments can be made about mutual interests and the strengthening of social actors in the defence of their causes, in the implementation of their projects and in the promotion of their communities".

The concept of "network" assumes that a partnership between institutions exists, seeing as it's through the strengthening of a partnership culture that you arrive at the formation of networks.

According to Elza Chambel:

"Partnership helps breaking isolation because it forces organisations to build bridges with other organisations and individuals, giving place to a formal coordination and a willingness to work together".
This kind of partnership has, at its core, the perception that that the resolution of people's problems can only be achieved if there's intervention at the community level, especially when said problem is several layers deep. Working in partnership is complex and demands exactitude and commitment in order to define the multiple variables involved.

In this sense, it is imperative that there exists trust, transparency, constant mutual communication, solidarity and shared responsibility.
Taking inspiration from the philosophy of their principal mentor, João dos Santos, who said that "a policy for childhood is the work of an entire community", the IAC has worked, for the past 24 years, in partnership with several institutions.

Not wanting to replace existing organisms, nor wishing to duplicate activities already undertaken by other entities, and with the goal of contributing to the construction of a better, less bitter, future for our children, the IAC continues its journey, always striving to do more, and do better, always trying to reach further, and looking to stimulate, support, and divulge the work of all those who care about finding new solutions for the problems children in Portugal face.

And so, we accept our role as the space where various experiences, knowledge, and competences are gathered. All of which are important to stimulate and collect, in the best interest of the defense and promotion of Children's Rights.

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