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Acosta Garcia, Raul (2012): Advocacy Networks Through a Multidisciplinary Lens: Implications for Research Agendas. In: Voluntas : International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, Vol. 23, No. 1: pp. 156-181
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Advocacy networks are coalitions of movements and organizations that in recent years have gained unprecedented levels of influence through their soft power strategies. They have become key political actors in local, national and international arenas. Research on their performance and role within today’s information society has been developed by academics from different disciplines. Some of these analyses, however, seem to portray them as a new actor within an already-existing structure. This article argues that the network structure of these associations requires for a multifaceted and multidisciplinary approach in order to better understand how they are changing the political and social landscape. In order to achieve this purpose, this article is divided in two parts: the first one offers an overview of existing literature on the subject from different disciplines and at different scales, while the second part puts forward a framework to consider all relevant spheres of these networks for better analyses. As will be noted in the literature review, most of the case studies have been carried out from a clear disciplinary focus with its own set of categories and focus on preferred dynamics. This approach reduces the density of the networks by portraying them as other already-known institutions. One example of this is that of scales of action, usually defined as local, national, international or transnational. By focusing solely on the arena of direct influence, other interactions that may be central to the network are thus ignored or minimized. In order to disentangle such misrepresentations, it is suggested here to consider five dimensions of analysis in the study of advocacy networks: (1) scales of action and interaction, (2) cultural contexts and legacies, (3) network logic, (4) discourse production and contestation and (5) institutional ecosystem. By considering the implications of all five of them, it is proposed here, accounts may yield more comprehensive analyses of how these webs of civil society groups are transforming the political landscape.