A set of benefits can derive for the research institutions from developing specific networking strategies. Such benefits may include:
- Keeping the organisation updated on what is going on in their environment and in different contexts (political, industrial, educational, community, cultural context)
- Expanding the base of support and the social recognition for the research organisation
- Providing a ready-made audience for initiative, ideas, programmes, and messages the organisation wishes to spread
- Providing access to varied and multiple resources/skills or opportunities
- Attracting students, talents and resources.
According to Enrique Mendizabal, networks perform six different functions, summarised below.
- Filtering functions. The filtering function of a network allows unmanageable amounts of information (about people, experts, events and facts) to be organised and used in a productive way.
- Amplifying function. Networks may allow to amplifying a message by disseminating stories and ideas to a wider audience.
- Resource providing function. Networks may offer a channel to provide members with the resources they need to carry out their main activities and may involve the distribution of goods and services from within the network (member led) or from outside the network (acting as brokers).
- Convening function. Networks may bring together different individuals and groups. In the case of research, a convening network would bring researchers together to plan and carry out research; it could, for instance, convene researchers from different nationalities or disciplines. A convening network can also bring together users of the products or services of networks or their members, for instance, policymakers looking for advice or ideas from researchers.
- Community building function. Community building functions promote and sustain the values and standards of a network of individuals or groups. These networks can work towards the formation of informal neighbourhood groups, formal research communities and even ‘expatriate’ communities.
- Facilitating function. Facilitating functions help members carry out their activities more efficiently and effectively. In the case of research networks, these might include organising conferences and meetings, publishing working papers and policy briefs, and providing mentoring to researchers or key individuals.
- The POLICY Project (1999) Networking for Policy Change. An Advocacy Training Manual, Washington (http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnacj305.pdf)
- Mendizabal E. (2006) Understanding Networks: The Functions of Research Policy Networks, Overseas Development Institute (https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/150.pdf)