The fact is, networks unite, and this was all about making the best of what Thomas Friedman has called the "flat world". Defining a network may not be easy and you may not know what it is technically but, as Kumi Naidoo, chief executive of South African Civicus joked, it's like pornography - you'll know it when you see it. Even the vocabulary of networks is nebulous, including as it does 'coalitions', 'alliances' and 'associations'. The last of these, of course, is what Acevo is.
Yes, business cards were exchanged like Pokemon cards, but the higher purpose was one of sharing expertise, resources and experience so that individuals and organisations can better face challenges together. The strength of networks is that they offer a way of bypassing official superstructures and national governments and achieving more equal partnerships, creating a platform on which citizens can stand on their own two feet.
No one was trying to veneer over the challenges. There are tensions between, say, integrating and coordinating ideology and practice, and fostering and sustaining independence and difference. As American academic David Renz explained, networks can obscure accountability. Their durability is that there's no single centre, no pivot without which the whole group would fall; but this also means there's no one place where the buck stops.
Acevo and I have our disagreements, but I was impressed: cross-fertilise cultures and ideas and you get real intellectual hybrid vigour.
- Nick Seddon is an author and journalist: email@example.com