The Changing Shape of INEE Network Spaces
In the twenty years since it was established, INEE has grown from a small group of individuals and organizations into a global network spanning 190 countries with more than 18,000 members. Coming from civil society organizations, ministries of education, donors, students, refugees, and teachers there are INEE members in each corner of the world. This is a positive change and INEE continues to play a critical role in the field of education in emergencies. However, with 127 million children and young people living in countries affected by crisis still denied their right to quality education, we know more needs to be done (INEE, 2020).
It remains imperative that we continue in our mission to be an open, global network of members working together within a humanitarian and development framework to ensure that all individuals have the right to a quality, safe, relevant, and equitable education. This requires us to draw on the collective impact of all INEE’s members, ensuring equitable and inclusive engagement across the network. The principle of community participation set out in the INEE’s Minimum Standards, must apply in all our work. However, increasing the number of members across the globe, while important, does not automatically lead to their equal participation.
INEE’s Strategic Framework 2018-2023 established the need to strengthen and diversify INEE’s membership as a priority. One of the most significant proposals within a review of the Strategic Framework was to ensure more dynamic and equitable engagement of INEE members in diverse contexts by reshaping the current global network spaces. The intention of the proposal was to move away from networks spaces that operate only at a global level - and where membership has historically consisted of organizations and members based in the global north - to a mixture of regional and global spaces. To this end in 2020, INEE’s Steering Group endorsed the recommendation to diversify INEE network spaces based on the extensive consultation that took place in 2019. This included results of a global survey of INEE members, key stakeholder focus groups and a formal review of INEE’s Strategic Priority 4. The following model was proposed:
- Regional Working Groups: A key point for development in this approach will be to further define an affiliation model, whereby existing regional groups might align and partner with INEE. INEE seeks to complement, not duplicate, existing national, regional, and global structures. Taking into account language communities will be essential to the development of this model.
- Global Thematic Groups (now known as Collaboratives, Reference Groups, and Task Teams): These existing groups would be reviewed to ensure equitable representation of members from a range of organizations and regions where EiE is taking place to amplify under-represented voices and perspectives and ensure that tools and resources developed are globally reviewed and relevant in a range of contexts. It is foreseen that communications and linkages between regional and global levels would be outlined in the implementation plan for this model.
- Global network space consisting of representation from the different networks spaces groups. This would bring together various work streams, and ensure coherence across INEE to respond to emerging needs in the sector.
The proposal aims to strengthen the network by ensuring it has a more balanced form, offering more culturally and/or linguistically relevant interactions, that draw more directly on the reality and experience in crisis affected contexts.
To move this proposed model from an idea into practice an Ad Hoc Committee on the Restructure of INEE Network spaces was established in March 2021. The ad hoc committee is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders, representing different professional backgrounds, specialisms and regions, with a specific terms of reference, tasked to reflect and consider the best way to reshape the network. This is an important undertaking and INEE values the commitment and considered conversations, questions and ideas that the ad hoc committee members bring to this process. The work of the ad hoc committee is now underway, with two meetings already held to establish the group; to consider ways of working; to map relevant information; and consider what wider inputs will be needed to take this proposal from rhetoric to reality. The idea of such a significant change while undoubtedly essential and exciting, may also raise concerns and questions around potential risk of such a change, of duplication, defining regions and many more. All of which are valid and need consideration. It is the role of the ad hoc committee to support INEE through this process.
As we think about the possible changes ahead, it is worth looking back at how INEE has evolved. In the early 2000s only one working group, formulated to develop what became the Minimum Standards existed. Now there are three global working groups, 3 collaboratives, 6 reference groups, 6 task teams and different language communities. INEE has evolved dramatically over the course of its 20 year history. Change, while sometimes uncomfortable is vital for a dynamic and relevant network. For example, in the wake of global anti-racist protests following the murder of George Floyd, INEE further realised that we have to act more decisively to shift the dynamics of our network to ensure that participation is equitable, inclusive and balanced. We issued a Statement on Anti-Racism and Racial Equity, in which we committed “to addressing racial inequity, power imbalance, and lack of diverse representation in our staffing and network spaces and to redoubling our efforts to pursue our existing Strategic Priority 4: to strengthen and diversify INEE membership.”
INEE cannot claim to be a truly global network unless the opportunities to engage and shape INEE’s agenda and work are reflective of members from diverse contexts, of different racial and cultural backgrounds, who speak different languages and bring different day to day lived experiences. A growth in numbers alone is not enough, our strength comes through our diversity.
The work of the ad hoc committee will help guide the transition towards a more devolved and equitable member-led network, and we thank them and all of you for your belief in the collective impact of INEE to ensure all people affected by crisis and instability have access to quality, safe, and relevant educational opportunities. In the coming weeks, the ad hoc committee will share updates and draw on the knowledge and inputs of INEE members globally. They and we look forward to your participation!