Fredrick Ouko is Executive Director of Action Network for the Disabled and currently an Ashoka Fellow.  He is also a board member of Little Rock and a global adviser for the Disability Rights Fund


What do you think are the key things that need to be in place for a partnership to work well?

There needs to be a mutual objective and trust between those involved and an open platform for communication.  The development field is very dynamic and so there is a need for constant communication and discussions about what works and what doesn’t and therefore needs to be changed from the initial plans.

Mutual respect is also key and the valuing of partners as equal. If there is any sense that one partner has more say than the other, then this changes the whole arrangement and it ceases to be a partnership as one partner will be talking to the other as a subject and giving all manner of directives to be followed, as opposed to engaging in discussions and agreements on different topics before moving forward.

Can you tell me about an experience you’ve had which you felt was partnership working at its most effective?

I have had an opportunity to work in a partnership that I really felt was mutually beneficial even though one partner was providing resources for the implementation of projects while I was the leader of the organisation, implementing the project on the ground.

The fact that the partner in question understood the possibilities of dynamism in project implementation and the need to constantly review milestones and address the challenges – which sometimes meant changing the initial project direction – was really fulfilling.  There was a great deal of honesty and open communication on anything that touched on the project. This led to its successful implementation and everyone felt excited to work on the project, since no amount of pressure was applied to anyone and you did what you thought would work and room for creativity was available, leading to a good relationship all through the project phase.

Are you willing to share an example of something that you were involved in that didn’t go well?     

We have had another partnership that didn’t go so well.  In this particular partnership, there were lots of directives about what should be done and uncoordinated deadlines being issued, even within a day or hours notice, giving one no room for reflection and no structured working plan.

The staff also seemed to feel superior and thus ordered their partners around. Since the partnership also involved resources, the one giving resources felt themselves to be of a higher standing and failed to acknowledge others as equal partners.

What are the key things you think need to happen to improve partnership practice across the sector?

There needs to be acknowledgement that funding should not be constructed as something which gives the partner who pledges resources a greater say, than the implementing partner, in what goes on in the partnership.

There needs to be openness in all manner of partnerships so that trust is built towards effective partnership.  We need to have clear objectives on partnerships and what we wish to achieve and we need to put in place mechanisms on how to solve any kind of misunderstandings that may occur and finally we need to listen to everyone involved.

I think that Partnership Matters is a fantastic resource for those working in the international development field. A way to connect with others, learn from what has been successful elsewhere, get support where required and continuously update oneself on the emerging practices in the field of international development.

Partnership Matters: A Reflective Guide is now available here.

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