Challenge 1: Partnership
“Relationships do not just happen – they are built over time, through trust and confidence in the individual and the organization supporting the work on the ground”.
Establishing strong partnerships built on mutual trust and understanding, in which partners offer complementary capacities, enables RfCD projects to create more ownership and control over the project. Most organizations do not have the ‘complete package’: where capacity, local and technical knowledge or organizational skills are not all present. Involving specialized third parties appears to contribute positively to the implementation of RfCD projects. By involving third parties in a partnership – whether local or transnational – this can lead to the accumulation of economic, social and political capital for the organizations involved and the beneficiaries.
Why establish partnership?
Projects are implemented and managed from different places in the world. We need to be connected to keep track of what is going on.
We all are specialized in different areas. To achieve our results, we need to bring together and combine specialists' knowledge.
We cannot stay on top of all the information available about what is happening. We have to team up with others to make sure we are as much informed about what is happening on the ground, in our own organization and around us.
We need to include those people that we are trying to reach. Decisions about projects can no longer be taken only by the management or the funders alone. People will insist on having a say in decisions that affect them.
Defining the need for a partnership
The goal of a partnership is to achieve more than individual organizations could have achieved on their own. To figure out whether a partnership is useful for your specific project, ask yourself the following questions:
What benefits will be gained from setting up this partnership arrangement?
What is the "added value" for potential partners? What exactly is the partnership trying to achieve? How will involving others help the partnership to achieve its goals?
Write down the benefits and goals and test these with your potential partners. Are they the same as your potential partners had envisioned?
Is someone else already doing something similar?
Do other organizations have similar or the same goals? If so, have you considered approaching them to become part of their partnership arrangement to ensure work is not being duplicated?
- Consult with all relevant stakeholders to establish a clear need for the partnership (think of public authorities, local community associations, local SMEs, etc)
- Check for any other partnerships doing similar work
- Ensure commitment is there to form the partnership
Starting the process
if you have identified a need to start a partnership, the next step is to organize the partnership. It is important to agree on a set of ground rules at an early stage. You can make use of the following questions to determine what your shared rules are:
Who should be involved in the partnership?
identify potential members
Who will take the lead and who gets what responsibility?
idenitfy responsibilities, arrangements and objectives of leadership
Do all partners understand and agree on the goals of the project?
What is the partnership's strategy to achieve its goals?
What is the partnership going to achieve? Who is going to do it? When do the goals have to be reached?
- Make sure to include all partners from an early stage and collaborate closely with each other in determining your goals and strategy.
- Make sure each partner knows its responsibilities and understands how these responsibilities are linked to achieving the goals.
Maintaining the partnership
Now the strategy and goals are agreed upon and understood by all partners, it is important to maintain the partnership throughout the project. Here are some questions to keep in mind:
Is there a strategy that stiipulates how to report on the progress of each partners' tasks?
Have you decided how decisions will be made and who will be accountable for the decisions made?
It is important to explain to all partners how decisions will be made, ensuring that all partners have their say in the decision-making process.
How will you communicate with your partners?
It is important to have an effective communication system in place that will ensure that everybody is regularly informed of the progress of the project. This will help to distill trust with the partners and strengthen each partners' commitment.
Monitoring & Evaluation
It is important to learn how your partnership is working. Are all partners happy with the functioning of the partnership? Do they understand their responsibilities and can they cooperate with others to achieve their goals? Make sure to consult with your partners regularly to involve each partner and built mutual trust and respect among each member.
Barriers to successful partnerships
- One partner dominates, or partners compete for the lead
- Lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities
- Differences in manners of working
- Lack of commitment or unwilling participants
- Unequal and/or unacceptable balance of power or control
- Key interests and/or people missing from the partnership
- Hidden agendas
- Failure to communicate
Inclusion of local community as partners
As the project was already based on the needs of the community, the organization needed to find a way to ensure that the project would not only meet their needs through activities by third parties, but also wanted to include the local community in the execution during the different project phases. Making the community a part of the project, and not only end beneficiaries, strengthened the local commitment to and sense of ownership over the project. Eventually the project created a value-chain within the community in which it connects farmers, migrant investors, dairy cooperatives and franchised dairies.