Defining local networks and their meaning

As Castillo (2009) defines, “networks are forms of social interaction, social spaces of coexistence and connectivity. They are fundamentally defined by the dynamic exchanges between the subjects that form them. Moreover, networks are open and horizontal systems, and bring together groups of people who share the same needs and problems”. In other words, what networks aim to achieve is a unification of society in which all people are treated as equals.

On the other hand, it is important to know, as Campos (1996) specified, “the concept of the social network and the interaction of the subject in dynamic frameworks of daily relationships, allow us to fine-tune with greater precision and with a greater instrumental arsenal, the intentionally collective interventions. The analysis of social networks and the opportunities they offer for the solution of problems and conflicts of an individual, family, group and community nature, fit satisfactorily with the objective of knowledge of Social Work: the subject in relation to his or her context. “Once the concept of social network has been defined, it must be taken into account that, as argued by Castillo (2009), it is not necessary to have the presence of groups or institutions in social networks, as they are spontaneous, implicit, assumed, extended, non-formal, variable, etc. networks, so that help is not decided in advance, and therefore it is not planned at all (there is no search for who to help and help is provided when the situation arises).  Because they are spontaneous support relationships, they do not arise in the absence of other institutional support, but rather people support each other in the face of difficulties imposed by different institutions, such as obstacles and documentation requirements or denial of basic rights. Migrants’ support networks are more or less dense and formal, but they are there, and to the extent that they are confronted with realities that are more distant from the normative space, they will appear more hidden and unintelligible to the eye. For all these reasons, in order to identify them and for people to be identified and accepted as an interesting contribution to them, time and proximity will be needed.

The story behind

According to Castillo (1996), it is vitally important to know the characteristics of the networks, which are as follows:

  • The subject naturally builds his or her own network, which is made up of a web of relationships and links in relation to the various environments he or she frequents.
  • Networks do not necessarily constitute a group, even if it is a chain of people with whom the subject is in contact and maintains relations.
  • The network constitutes the spatio-temporal dimension of the subject, his psychosocial territory, a fabric of links that represents his affective and communication system, and is subject to new and continuous feedback. Moreover, the network has a value of diverse functions.
  • The basic idea of networks is that they are placed at an intermediate level between the individual with his or her individual characteristics and social institutions.
  • Networks can be more or less functional for the development of individuals and there is an intrinsic ambivalence, insofar as they can favour the growth and development of the subject, or, on the contrary, limit and demand an indiscriminate conformism from them, impose unrealistic or antisocial expectations on them or keep them in a position of permanent marginality.
  • The characteristics of the links that constitute the network can be particularly important for understanding the individual in relationship and for interpreting his or her social behaviour.
  • Networks provide individuals with a set of different services in relation to their characteristics, making available material and immaterial goods, providing meaning to individual life by providing roles to the subject and developing self-esteem and a sense of belonging.
  • The network of relationships can be transformed into a support system of its own for the person in need of help, usually modifying its configuration to the extent that not all members of the network are available or willing to provide a helping relationship.
  • Networks influence health and care-seeking, constituting a barrier to a certain order of insanity, being a source of symptom reading and a source of accompaniment.
  • Not all relational modes become a support system, and some individuals may be cut off from a natural support network.
  • If the first intervention of help is provided by the family or the network of intimate relationships and this help is focused on the context of the subject’s life, it should be remembered that these helpers are often in need of emotional support, guidance and counselling and, sometimes, financial support.

It should be noted that networking plays a major role in developing spaces of complementarity and joint construction in particular. The people involved in the projects with whom we work are involved in a situation of exclusion, moreover, nowadays it is very common to investigate people in a situation of exclusion through different services, that is to say, although we work with a user from one service, it is very likely that we will work with that user from other areas/services. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind two issues that are essential to cement the construction and development of networks; firstly, one must have something to offer that is different; and secondly, the objective is not to join together, but rather the objective transcends and one must move towards it to build networks (Castillo, 2009). (Castillo, 2009).

As Rodriguez (2016) explains, professionals contemplate a set of principles and foundations of human rights and an ethic of commitment to citizenship, which promotes welfare and social protection, with the aim of improving the quality of life of citizens. In relation to the ethical foundations of community social work, the values dimension is considered central to many of the practitioners, because wanting to help people is a fundamental element in practice, but a commitment to social justice, integrity and professional competence are equally needed. With regard to the technical foundations, it is necessary to make empowerment effective, which implies a work of capitalisation of the subjects in their individual and collective trajectories in which they are weakened, without forgetting either that, as Marchioni (2001) said “what vertebrates community work is undoubtedly the element of participation”. Furthermore, it should be noted that empowerment involves different dimensions, as follows:

It helps to understand networking, because it promotes citizen participation and the construction of civil society.

It contributes to generating creative responses to problems from different existing resources.

It promotes processes of personal development and growth.

It produces new knowledge and new skills, so the stronger the links a person has, the more access they have to resources.

The content that is provided to start a work of creation or participation in a network stems from the capacity that one has or does not have to establish a real and significant link with the people participating in the programmes and with the place where they live, that is to say, to try to integrate the networks that exist in the neighbourhood (in this case, it would be the municipality of Mislata). Moreover, it must be taken into account that the place where we want to be present will already have its own dynamics and networks. One cannot pretend to be part of a network of natural relationships when one starts from formal and standardised creations. Networking is not only an ingredient for improving the way of working, but also means an opportunity for the people who are part of it. Exclusion has a very strong component of isolation. The loss of this richness is a fundamental loss. This is why we want to see networks as a counter-current to these tendencies (Castillo, 2009)

Professionals must have different theoretical and methodological references, because most of the problems they have to deal with do not arise from a human or social deficit in themselves, but are the result of the interaction between humans and the social, given that, on many occasions, a human deficit does not necessarily produce an objectively relevant problem, unless other realities arising from the social environment are present at the same time. Therefore, professionals intervene as a priority at the local level with individuals, families and collectives with problems derived from being in a situation of social difficulty with no or very little support network.

Networking and its phases

As Castillo (2009) mentions, the creation of spaces of coexistence through activity is the first and closest level of networking. In the different levels of networking, you will go through several phases:

  • Meeting and search for a common goal.
  • Elaboration of agreements and structures to weave the network that makes it possible to achieve the objectives set.
  • Implementation of the agreed work plan.
  • Evaluation.

Networking derives from a holistic conception that leads to conceiving reality as systemic and reticular, and the successful confrontation of the problem as the product of the intersection of diverse forces, present in the fabric of relationships, albeit in a potential state (Campos, 1996).
The inverse proportionality rule conveyed by Marchioni (2006) in some of his slogans on the use of information in the framework of community plans: little information to many people, more information to an intermediate group and maximum information to few people. This scheme is appropriate for working on this point, as it is also highlighted at other points in the network process. Many of the network workers remain in very small dissemination plots, despite the value of the work that is developed. Network dynamism is the idea of praxis as an evaluative argument, which is necessary in all network developments. The result will have to do with the capacity to respond to people. Networks must make an effort to include “the more the merrier” in a meaningful and intelligent way, and this will be one of the most important forces when it comes to valuing and appraising the process carried out (Castillo, 2009).
Finally, it is important to know that network analysis has been theoretically reinforced thanks to the ecological model of human development developed by Bronfenbrenner (1979), which offers a complex reading of the subject’s permanent interaction with their immediate and mediate environments, allowing the integration of social network structures and the transactional relationships of support generated within them (Campos, 1996).

Working with stakeholders and the power interest grid

A stakeholder is an individual, a group of people or an organization who has an interest in your project, and can either affect or be affected by it. A good tool to use in a stakeholder analysis is the Power-Interest grid, which we will describe here, with a focus on the stakeholders typically present in a participatory media project. When you do a stakeholder analysis, start out by making a list of your stakeholders.

Who is your target group and the people around them (interest organisations, families, friends, caretakers, mentors, final beneficiaries etc.)? Who do you cooperate with in the project (partner organizations, associated partner organizations, supervisors, counselors etc.)? Who is your own group and the people around you (your organisation, your colleagues, your boss, your project group, other project groups, your family etc.)? And who is paying for your project (funding programmes, benefactors, campaign organisations etc.)?

When you have the list, it’s time to plot them into the grid. You have two axes, one is how much power the stakeholder has over the project, the other is how much interest the stakeholder has in the project. The grid is divided in four areas;

These are the stakeholders who have high power as well as high interest in the project. You want to keep close cooperation, full engagement and full information to the players, as they are both very interested in how the project is evolving, and they can have a big influence on its outcome.

Examples of players could be your participants, they are (consciously or not) interested in a project with the best possible outcome for themselves. The project is often created for them, and they can have a huge impact for example by participating or not, or by respecting the other participants or not. It’s an important stakeholder group to keep motivated, and when you work with vulnerable target groups, this is also a stakeholder that you are obliged to keep safe. Another player could be a funding programme. They are highly interested in supporting a well-functioning project which meets the project goals which you described in the approved application. They also have a lot of power over the project, as they in the worst case can withdraw their support and thus stop the project.

The subjects have a high interest in the project, but not so much power. They might be able to offer ideas and insight to the project, so it’s in your interest to keep them well informed and perhaps cooperate with them, but you don’t always have to follow their wishes. This could be friends and families of the participants, an interest organisation or final beneficiaries, but be aware that these groups can also in some cases have high power. It depends on the individual project.

This group of stakeholders does not have a lot of interest in the project, but a lot of power. You would want to keep them up to date with how things are going, but you don’t need to inform them about the details. Context Setters could be your boss or a board, for example, who can influence the project a lot by allocating resources, or deciding on an overall timeline, but who might not be interested in the detailed project planning and development. It can also be the head of a partner-organisation, certain colleagues or your own family, if the project has an influence on your everyday life routines.

Has low interest and low power on the project, but as they are still stakeholders, you want to keep them updated somehow on the developments of the project. This could be colleagues not involved in the project, caretakers of the participants or the like.

The municipality of Mislata is located in the province of Valencia and belongs to the comarca of l’Horta Sud. According to the municipal census, the total population amounts to 44,320 inhabitants in 2020, which is undoubtedly one of the highest rates of inhabitants per m2 in the country with a population density of 21,514.56 inhabitants per km2. 48.5% of the inhabitants are men while 51.5% are women. It is worth noting that according to the INE, 38,881 of Mislata’s total population are Spanish and 5,439 are foreigners (Save The Children 2020). Ethnic, social and cultural diversity is therefore a hallmark of the municipality.

In order to respond to the growing ethnic, cultural and social diversity, Mislata, as a municipality, currently has the following municipal resources, without prejudice to the creation and development of new ones:

There are musical associations such as the Agrupación Musical Cornetas y Tambores Mislata, the musical cultural association of percussion of Mislata, the band of cornets and drums of Mislata, the musical instruction centre of Mislata, the Mislata Artists Movement (MAM) and the Musical Union of Mislata (Piccolo School).

Ararat Armenian Association. To promote the knowledge of Armenian culture and to organise educational actions in our environment, especially among children, as well as to maintain the traditions and the language among the population of Armenian origin. At the same time, to facilitate the knowledge of Spanish and Valencian and of their culture and traditions in order to achieve social integration.

Han cultural association. To promote traditional Chinese culture, arts and traditions, giving an open and free image of Han Chinese culture. As well as, to promote cultural exchanges between the Valencian Community and to teach our language.

Mislata Andalusian Association. Maintain cultural and social ties with the Andalusian people and disseminate their cultural expressions within and outside the municipality of Mislata. As well as promoting and sponsoring cultural activities for the benefit of both members and other inhabitants of Mislata.

Castilla – La Mancha Cultural Association of Mislata. The aim of our social and cultural activities is oriented towards the non-profit dissemination of the socio- cultural values of Castilla-La Mancha, as well as promoting its popular folklore, gastronomic culture and the knowledge of the cultural roots of our land in the place where we live.

Cultural and theatrical association “La Trinxera”. To increase the cultural and theatrical heritage in the territorial scope of the Valencian Community, as well as to widen the literary and artistic spectrum of the same.

Housewives and consumers Aitana. To defend and promote the individual and collective interests of housewives, both as consumers and users.

Progressive Women’s Association of Mislata. To represent and defend the interests and rights of women and make them aware of these in order to improve their personal, social and work situation. To promote the mobilisation, participation, training and organisation of women in accordance with the principles of equality in our city, as well as in the Valencian Community. And, finally, it is necessary to propose that in the process of planning, organising and implementing development programmes, the necessary means to make such participation and representation effective be offered on a permanent basis.

Mislata Women’s Association. To promote and encourage the conditions that make possible, as a main goal, social equality and the participation of women in political, economic, cultural and social life in order to achieve an improvement in our quality of life.

Espai violeta Association of Mislata. To develop programmes and actions to improve the living conditions of women and achieve equal rights in all areas of public and private life, through positive action measures that promote a freer and more caring society in a framework of peace and progress.

Por Ti Mujer Association – Aminvi Network. To contribute to the fight against gender violence, to the empowerment of women, to the full exercise of their rights and to the achievement of gender equality. At the same time, to develop co- development and international cooperation programmes in Latin America. It is a comprehensive care programme that offers information, psychological, social, educational, legal, employment and shelter services for abused women.

Les Tisores Women’s Association. To encourage the participation of women in the heart of the association and in the social context in an educational way; as well as to organise activities, services and non-profit companies of a social, educational, cultural and other types for its associates and for the community. With the aim of promoting the knowledge and the solution of the specific problems of the women’s collective and, at the same time, to defend the Women’s Rights.

Association of women citizens of the Valencian Community. To protect and help women in cases of mistreatment, social inequality and distress as single, separated or divorced mothers. At the same time, to defend Valencian culture in all its facets.

St. Francis of Assisi Junior Group. To educate in the Catholic faith, at the same time as seeking an integral education of the person, above all through activities and games focused on the youngest. The aim is to make the project of man and a new world announced by Jesus Christ in the Gospel a reality for the community.

Ahuim. International humanitarian association of Mislata. Aiming to achieve greater awareness among our neighbours in order to carry out aid and cooperation projects, mainly in impoverished countries.

America Spain Solidarity and Cooperation Association AESCO. To promote solidarity through development cooperation and fair trade projects between Europe and Latin America, as well as to promote social action programmes aimed at vulnerable groups. At the same time, to support environmental initiatives and to promote interculturality. They have a significant projection as promoters of the network of migrants, working for a respectful welcome. They also promote social action programmes aimed at people in vulnerable situations.

Red Cross. Intervene with the most vulnerable people in defence of their rights. To offer, also to the general population, a network of support and prevention in areas such as health, emergency care, training and education and the defence of the environment.

Effeta Madre Micaela Association To give pedagogical and psychological support to children and young people who need it. To promote equality, fraternity and solidarity. At the same time, to promote the realization of concrete actions or projects of cooperation for development aimed at the basic needs of disadvantaged populations.

Bona gent. Friends of people with intellectual disabilities. To provide, through its services, the necessary supports so that the person with intellectual disabilities can develop to the maximum and be the protagonist of his own life, looking for the maximum possible autonomy. At the same time, to raise awareness and inform society about the reality of the people with disabilities and their families.

Solidarity for a fairer world. To carry out campaigns for the benefit of the most disadvantaged sectors of the population, as well as information campaigns within the world of youth on issues of vital importance such as alcohol, drugs, etc., and, at the same time, to collaborate with other associations for the same purpose.

Association of traders, entrepreneurs and professionals of Mislata ACEM. To promote and protect the commercial, professional and business activities legally established in the municipality of Mislata.

Refugee Reception Centre (C.A.R). These are public establishments intended to provide accommodation, food and urgent and primary psychosocial assistance, as well as other social services aimed at facilitating the coexistence and integration into the community of people who apply for asylum in Spain or obtain the status of refugee or displaced person in Spain and who lack the financial means to meet their needs and those of their families.

II Local Plan for Children and Adolescents 2019 – 2023. This Plan is part of this desire to build a city for everyone. For children, for the elderly, for men and women, for people with mobility handicaps, for people living with functional diversity. An inclusive, friendly, tolerant, equitable city that promotes the rights of all groups, however different they may be.