Learning is an essential element for building capacity and achieving tangible results to advance marine and coastal management in developing countries. Networks of practice are emerging to take advantage of information technology, with the notion that virtual communities might be a low cost way to share information and overcome some of the barriers to good governance and sustainable development by enabling leaders to become more effective. Fostering networks of practice across regions and continents is motivated by the need to reduce the profound isolation that practitioners feel as well as to build their personal knowledge and social capital. However, active networks are based on engaging in joint activities and building personal commitment and trust, and technology by itself cannot supply these essential ingredients. There is no substitute for face to face contact in the generation and transmission of knowledge that is most relevant to leaders working in the unique circumstances of every coastal ecosystem. A review of recent literature and experience reported by large international organizations provides the backdrop for an examination of the success and challenges of a network of Latin-American coastal managers and a network of mariculture professionals in East Africa.