So, I had to read this report by the Save Darfur Coalition for my class this week, Issues in Humanitarian Assistance and Intervention, and although I was already familiar with the Save Darfur Coalition (SDC) I had never considered it through the lens of network theory and in terms of social capital, etc., as we have been doing in our class.

As I was reading about the SDC, I found myself relating everything in the report to many class discussions in my class, Networks as Capacities for Peace. In particular, our discussions regarding the viability, effectiveness, strengths/weaknesses and such of networks (for example three we examined were the African National Congress in South Africa, the Zimbabwe diaspora, and the Cordoba Initiative), in which we asked many questions about the implications and potential of different elements of networks, such as leadership and the possible necessity of a “critical yeast” (key leadership figures or critical events that propel a movement/network forward), membership and the positives/negatives about plurality or diversity, advocacy and the role of media/social media, etc. The SDC appears to have effectively addressed each of these different needs or elements.

The SDC is a coalition of more than 190 faith-based, advocacy and human rights organizations with over 1 million (!) activists and 100’s of communities committed to ending the genocide in Darfur (they report a total of 130 million people represented by the coalition- this is massive membership or partnership #s!). The report mentions how the SDC is able to use everyone’s collective abilities for expertise and resources, ie. they are successfully leveraging the social capital of all members of this massive coalition. The various ways the SDC does this is, 1) the creation of various programs such as the Communities United to Save Darfur program, 2) a huge and effective online forum and online advocacy (particularly social media-Facebook, Twitter, Youtube), 4) strong media relations made effective by a clearly formulated and communicated media and advocacy strategy, 3) in-person opportunities to strategize, build capacity, and create effective advocacy (through their Darfur A! ctivist Leaders and most notably the participation and strategic influence on policy and strategies of the Darfuri diaspora, ie. the Darfuri Leaders Network), and 4) not only strong domestic advocacy (pressuring and influencing US political leaders and Congress), but also advocacy within the international community (UN, NATO, EU, AU, Arab League). At the end of the report they even list all the coalition partners, the Board of Directors (which appears to be an interfaith and interethnic mix–notably, their Chairperson is Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, M.D., My Sister’s Keeper…which could be another discussion along the lines of the one brought up during the Cordoba Initiative presentation regarding who the leader of the network is and how that effects its functioning/perception…), and their statement of activities/revenue and expenses–>supporting an image of the SDC as transparent and accountable as well.

The mission (THEORY OF CHANGE) of the SDC is to raise public awareness and mobilize a massive response to the atrocities in Darfur…which it seems to be effectively acheiving.

Overall, the Save Darfur Coalition really stood out to me, in light of all the questions about networks we’ve discussed in our class, as a good model for an effective network. One that is successfully and effectively leveraging the social capital of its members and partners, its ability to bridge such a wide variety of actors and other networks (190+; coalition partners notably also include the National Council of Churches, and Catholic, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic networks and organizations), its multitrack efforts to advocate with community, national, regional and international leaders and organizations, and effectively utilizing the media, especially social media to advocate its cause.

A good place to go from here would be to question how its methods could be replicated or what lessons can be drawn from the SDC that can be applied to other networks? I think the SDC is an effective network, however, I wonder what role the specific nature of their campaign and theory of change (the atrocity of genocide) has on its huge success at motivating mass advocacy and activism? As well as what role or influence who it has on its Board and supporting it in Congress has on its success?

Is the SDC a good model as a network? If so, can (should) it be replicated or used to remodel other less effective networks and campaigns for other global issues just as pertinent? Any thoughts?

By Jessica Fowler

Photo attributed to: COSV

Written by Jessica Fowler