International Development practice is based around the concept of producing change for poor and marginalised people by carry out projects and initiatives designed to improve their lives. Many agencies have moved away from directly implementing projects themselves to working in partnership with local organisations usually known as ‘local partners’.
This has become important to donors and INGOs alike. For example, DFID’s current programme-based funding stream the Global Poverty Action Fund requires that organisations work in one of DFID’s priority countries with ‘locally registered and independent’ civil society organisations. Most INGOs are working in partnership in some way with organisations or individuals in the countries where they work. Some of these are small local community based organisations others are large local NGOs.
How do INGOs work in partnership?
These partnerships vary widely in their nature. Some organisations work directly with overseas partners and have no operations overseas of their own. Others see themselves as implementing projects with and through local organisations and to some partnership relationships are little more than means to access funding or make themselves look well-connected.
Many large INGOs and donors still present their work as ‘their own’ and fear that explaining to the public the complex ways in which they implement projects through a network of partners and relationships might put them off.
As a result the quality of partnership, a fundamental mechanism through which international NGOs work, often goes untracked and it’s incredibly difficult to tell how well an organisation creates, sustains and nurtures partnerships and how well their partnerships reflect the values at the heart of their work.
Why does this matter?
Partnerships matter because if the relationships an organisation has with the organisations and communities they are working with do not function well then this can mean that quality of their work suffers. It may be ineffective or may not be what local people want or need. Positive partnership is about living our own values. It’s about demonstrating and being the changes we want to see in the world. It is also about understanding that relationships matter, and have as much effect on the success and effectiveness of programmes and projects as much as clear plans and budgets.
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