I have been saddened in the past few years to see the demise of both, Healthlink and One World Action which I viewed as examples of organisations where the need for positive partnership principles and practice were recognised and applied. Then sorting through my emails over Christmas I found one from the late Bernie Trude, who was my mentor and who had shared with me a diagram that was created – I think when he worked with Healthlink – about the characteristics of both Strong and Weak Partnership. I had a bee in my bonnet about partnership before I met Bernie but somehow when I was working with him I developed the confidence to make positive partnership a key element of my own work with AbleChildAfrica. The chart clearly contrasts Strong Partnerships with values and shared understanding being critical elements with Weak Partnerships where communications are one way and dependency is encouraged.
In the context of these recollections I’ve been thinking this week about why I started Partnership Matters and my vision for it in 2012. Why does this issue you matter to me and what does it mean for my life and my work? The saddest thing for me is when development work rather than sharing values with poor and marginalised people recreates a dependence cycle which perpetuates their poverty and marginalization. I think this diagram which I got from Bernie can help us to start to think more clearly about how to avoid and tackle this. To think about the ways in which many of the very procedures and processes popular in the sector may, often inadvertently, be reproducing a kind of subservient dependence which perpetuates and replicates everything which is so unfair about the world we live in. Somewhere deep inside me I know that as long as we continue to find such approaches acceptable we resist the genuine possibility of the creation of a fairer world. In the face of the current cuts and challenges facing the sector and the pressure on resources worldwide it’s increasingly important that we keep on remembering the importance of living our values and making them meaningful as we carry out our work.
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