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The Human Development Network (HDN) was created in 1997 as part of President Wolfensohn's reorganization of the World Bank. The reorganization's objective was to strike a better balance between country focus and sectoral excellence. It was also motivated by recognition that the Bank's development programs were excessively driven by a culture of lending. The need to increase attention towards client needs and the quality of results was addressed.
To facilitate sharing of expertise and knowledge, the Bank established networks that linked Bank-wide communities of staff working in the same field across organizational boundaries and with external partners. The networks were intended to link staff working in the same sectors throughout the Bank, whether the staff was located in the Regional Vice Presidencies, sectoral departments, Independent Evaluation Group (IEG, formerly the Operations Evaluation Group [OED]), World Bank Institute (WBI), or Development Economics (DEC). The objectives and responsibilities of the networks were many: reduce fragmentation; increase information flow; set priorities; manage quality; run the information system; consolidate external partnerships; vet staff promotions; and disseminate best practices. The work programs of network staff focused on:
- Global knowledge - putting the best development knowledge in the hands of Bank task teams; ensuring that the knowledge base was accessible to external clients; and contributing to the growth of the knowledge base.
- Enhanced skills - developing and providing content to training courses; establishing professional and technical standards for professional development.
- Shared strategies - assisting regional and central units to develop a common sector agenda, and ensuring that skills are effectively deployed across the entire network. Network leadership assumed responsibility for global programs, sector strategy development and evaluation, strategic partnerships, and learning and dissemination. * Best teams and best practices - improving the Bank's flexibility and mobility by building stronger task teams and delivering higher quality products.
- Institutional initiatives - providing substantial support for new Bank-wide initiatives, such as social development, rural development, financial sector, anti-corruption, human resources, and knowledge partnerships.
HDN was the first of three networks to be created in 1997; the others were the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network (PREM) and the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Network (ESSD). Soon after, in 1997-98, the Private Sector and Infrastructure Network (PSI) was created. In 2000-01, the Operation Policy and Strategy Department became the Operations Policy and Country Services Network (OPCS). In 2003-04, the PSI became the Financial and Private Sector Development Network (FPSD) and in 2007 ESSD was combined with Infrastructure to form the Sustainable Development Network (SDN).
HDN is organized in the same way as the other Bank networks. Each network is headed by a Vice President and Head of Network. Under the Vice President is a network council which oversees the entire network. The council is composed of the top network managers from each Region and is responsible for setting the overall agenda for the network and for promoting effective deployment of skills across network units. It deliberates on issues relevant to the functions and objectives of the Network - e.g., strategy; people; knowledge; quality/business process; and external partnerships.
Each thematic network covers several related sectors of development. Each sector department has its own board, with representatives drawn from the Regions as well as from the network itself. The sector boards are accountable to the network council and are supported by a secretariat.
When the HDN was created in 1997, three sector departments from the former Human Development Department (HDD) were placed in the network: Education Team (HDNED); Health, Nutrition, and Population Team (HDNHE); and the Social Protection Team (HDNSP). In2003 an HIV/AIDS Global Program Team (HDNGA) was created and added to HDN. In or around 2004, an advisor position for Children and Youth was created in HDN. Similarly, an advisor position for Development Dialogue was moved to HDN in 2008 or earlier.