Exchanging Experiences, Expanding Opportunities

Social protection: working within a network environment

In recent years, social protection has become an essential element in the fight against poverty, inequality and social exclusion in the region, and a priority in the countries’ social development agenda. The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) has been supporting member states in promoting social protection policies and finding innovative solutions to address these challenges that afflict the region.

Several countries in the Americas have developed new ways to address the complex challenges of poverty and inequality, with results that make a real difference. Within the framework of the Inter-American Social Protection Network (IASPN) the OAS provides a forum to strengthen these efforts through cooperation and exchange.

What is the IASPN?

The IASPN is a regional community of practice and learning on social protection that brings together social development ministries and other government agencies, in collaboration with international organizations, NGOs, the private sector and the academia.

It is an exchange and cooperation mechanism for social protection actors in the region, which is build upon the OAS concept of partnership for development . This approach comprises all countries, regardless of their level of development, and entails leaving behind a traditional approach towards aid in order to develop a partnership for development which, without attempting to impose models, supports the economic and social actions taken by each member state. The IASPN/OAS team believes that countries can learn from their peers and build on the experience of others.

The role of IASPN/OAS consists in facilitating cooperation in social protection, providing added value in its capacity as technical secretariat, as well as conferring a regional approach which allows the exchange of experiences and knowledge to be of multilateral scope. The OAS concept of partnership for development is combined with the possibility of expanding and deepening cooperation in social policy through the search and identification of lessons learned (and/or comparative advantages) of the different programs, countries and institutions that are part of the IASPN community.

Why do we promote working within a network environment?

Social Development Ministries and Agencies throughout the region have defined social protection as “an integral approach comprised of various universal and targeted policies and programs that seek to help individuals confront the various risks they face in their lifespan; and that their specific design will be determined by the conditions, needs and decisions of each member State”  .

In turn, in the recently adopted Social Charter of the Americas, the countries of the region recognize the “responsibility to develop and implement comprehensive social protection policies and programs, based on the principles of universality, solidarity, equality, nondiscrimination, and equity that give priority to persons living in conditions of poverty and vulnerability, taking into account their national circumstances”  .

Hence, considering the comprehensive approach towards social protection that countries in the region have adopted, working within a network environment becomes even more relevant in addressing topics of a multidimensional and intersectoral nature.  The latter do not necessarily respond to solely national issues and thus lead to the need of providing solutions that transcend national, sub-regional or sectoral boundaries.

The IASPN considers that working within a network envrionment allows for an inter-sectoral exchange, for the involvement of a broad spectrum of relevant stakeholders in this field, and for the adoption of an international or regional approach. It also provides the possibility of multiplying exchanges or, in other words, that bilateral or trilateral exchanges feed a larger community interested in gaining knowledge from that same lesson learned.

In addition to these features, working within a network environment aims to:

• Address the need to find strategies that can respond in dynamic and flexible manner new needs (both in terms of using technology as well as innovative experience and knowledge forms of exchange)
• Adopt a thematic approach (social protection) of technical consistency, but with a comprehensive approach and intersectoral coordination
• Serve as a bridge between political dialogue ( to determine consensus and priorities at a regional level) and the stakeholders’ technical expertise in social protection
• Allow for division of labor: comparative advantages of the different flows, policies and stakeholders
• Expand the exchange and transfer of experiences and knowledge at a multilateral level
• Systematize experiences, generation of knowledge and training on social protection
• Encourage ownership of the network and its tools

How can you be part of this network?

The IASPN community of practice and learning is open for participation to all stakeholders in the social protection field.

For more information on how to register to the IASPN Knowledge Portal, please refer to the following tutorial.