Last June I thought a lot about the way that “Facebook and Twitter aren’t the only networks that matter in Arab Spring“. My main prediction was that while the “masses” were extremely powerful in organized regime changes or revolutions in some of the Arab countries, they will have major problems in developing enough leadership and real-world traction to play a role as important in the next step, forming the next governments. Interesting to see how this plays out in Egypt and to look at some of the real world networking strategies that were successful for those who wanted to get into or remain in power. Basically I see two strategies as being highly successful:
- Knock on every door (bottom-up) and
- Stay close to your influential friends (top-down)
The two groups that have been highly influential in securing a share of power in Egypt today are the Muslim Brotherhood and the old establishment (with strong representation of the military). Both used long term network building strategies that started long before Spring with a lot of real-world face-to-face interactions. The Muslim Brotherhood, even when it had to work underground, knocked on every door and worked hard at putting their roots down in neighborhoods, with a public face that highlighted their social activities, presenting themselves as your brothers who help you out in tough times.
The generals and other representatives on the other hand put their effort into establishing long lasting elite networks, whose members helped each other increase the power base, in political and economic terms. Even as an outsider you can safely guess that everybody in this network owes a lot of other “insiders” some favors and that they share a lot of closets with a lot of bodies hidden in them. And the pressure their network has come under through the political changes of the last year will increase this sense of cohesion and the need to stick together against the threats of the outside world. An elite network can be weakened by removing the head and some of the formal power of its members. However, if the elite network members did a good job of positioning allies in all areas of leadership, not just the legislative but also administration, private sector, police and military, the revolutionaries are looking at a long up-hill battle.
In the initial celebrations after the end of the Egyptian regime it seemed to many that this was the ultimate success of the Arab Spring movement in Egypt, that they had achieved their goal. It was a bit like an old school Hollywood movie, that ends when the hero and heroine kiss and get married to live happily ever after. Well, if you are married in the real world (and not a movie), you know that all the fun, challenges and hard work happen after the “I do” and that happily ever after is not a guaranteed reward that you get automatically.
It will be interesting to see the Arab Spring movement grow into their role after the end of the movie. Which of the real networking strategies will they apply to work on their own “happily ever after”? How will they split up in different factions without the uniting force of a simple common enemy?