European Union Captures Gender Knowledge Through Networks

June 19, 2012 Vilnius, Lithuania.  The newest European Union agency, the European Institute for Gender Equality, EIGE, will power its possibilities on networks of actors.
Participants at the EIGE consultation on gender and useful and effective networks, Vilnius
EIGE strives for excellence as the European center for competence on gender equality and gender mainstreaming. It creates comparative data, and is establishing a resource and documentation centre to enable the institute to make available the collected data, information, tools and methods, best practices, policy documents and grey literature.

Gender and network experts from Europe shared their ideas on how to make the EIGE resource and documentation work as effective as possible, on June 18 and 19. Lin McDevitt-Pugh of NetSHEila was one of the people invited. We watched as the small, ambitious team unfolded the plans for a simple to use yet very effective online information repository. Work is in hand to launch a pilot portal on gender-based violence information in November 2012, with Aletta - my former workplace - being one of the partners. In addition, virtual networks will be established so that public policy makers can discover what other policy developers in other member states are doing, and have done, and they can inquire into their experiences, request their sources, and much more. The success of this process will largely depend on how it is 'animated'. In part, this 'animation' is about how EIGE creates the space as safe where people trust each other enough to share not just the successes, not just the end results, but the processes that led to creating breakthrough policies. The processes are often very personal, and the online space has to accommodate a discussion of personal drive to make change happen. Animation also deals with encouraging, in a very personal way, actors to be in touch with each other in the online space. Of course EIGE could just as easily link two people in different countries to each other, and have them exchange experiences. That would exclude the possibility of people with whom EIGE is not directly in contact reading the exchange and learning something that is vital for their own gender development process. Through this networking activity, EIGE is making the unexpected possible.

At the heart of the idea of sharing information between public policy makers and implementers at the EU level is that these people are curious. They want to know what already exists, they want to know who knows more about things that concern them, they want to know who has ideas that can bring them forward. The idea is also that people who have already created policies or generated successful programs are willing to stay with the subject and share with others what they know. Building this environment of curiosity and mentoring will require care and strategic thinking.

Besides the online space there will also be a physical space within the Europe offices in Vilnius, where visitors can meet.

What is the ideal physical space for a documentation and information center? At a time when most people look for their information online, and where bricks and mortar libraries are re-branding themselves to remain places where people want to be, we can't expect the center to build a vast library. Few people will visit hoping to read a book. The visitors space can better reflect and display the power of the network of European actors in the gender field to provide any information that is needed. 

Lin McDevitt-Pugh, NetSHEila
NetSHEila works with organizations to achieve their goals, at little cost, using the power of networks.

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