This paper engages in a comparative analysis of networks amongst social and political actors within two specific issue-fields of British politics, namely, asylum and unemployment. In so doing, the paper aims to develop a series of arguments which draw on and cut across several sociological paths of inquiry on collective action, social movements, networks, civil society, and policy process. My analysis will start with the discussion of the relationship between social actors (movements, non-governmental organisations and voluntary groups) that make demands for other constituencies rather than themselves on the one hand, and policy-makers, political parties, and civil society groups and organisations on the other hand. This debate has so far relied on relatively few empirical accounts that are informed by original comparative data [Statham, 2001], and has received limited attention by scholars of social movements and collective action, who have focused in general on instances of collective action where the beneficiary of the political goal does not differ from the constituency group that mobilises [Giugni and Passy, 2001; Passy, 1998]. Indeed, this specific ‘altruistic’ relationship between beneficiary and constituency groups within the two selected issue-fields of asylum and unemployment provides one of the main conceptual and methodological foundations for their comparison.