Partners may not realize that HOW they join together is as important as WHY they join together.
How a partnership program is set up determines if it will be sustainable, efficient, and impactful.
Each international partnership is different, depending on the participants, politics, sector, setting and more. Each partnership grows and matures in response to changing environments and knowledge gained. There is no substitute for taking context into account and creating fit-for-purpose structures with flexibility over time.
Teams with vision and technical sector expertise do well to add design and governance expertise. Shared governance, pooled funding, harmonized approaches, centralized support, combined knowledge: These are hallmarks of healthy international partnership programs. Healthy structure begins with clearly agreed expectations and commitments, based on clearly articulated roles and responsibilities, with clearly established mechanisms for change.
Whether you are a donor development partner looking for a robust fiduciary framework, or a benefitting recipient country looking to add your voice, or an implementing entity looking for efficiency, or all of the above interested in feedback and lessons learned, a partnership works best if it works for all partners.
My two favorite themes are ancient wisdom:
LIKE ROCK, LIKE WATER
Good partnerships are organic, responsive and flexible.
They sit on solid foundations and go with the flow.
Their design is about connections and delineations,
as the water flows, as the rock divides.
They are patient and sustained,
but also quick and adaptable.
They are contextual, modular, stable in their settings,
all the while seeking new ways, evolving over time.
IT'S ALL IN THE BALANCE
Nature lives in the balance, and so do partnerships.
They are organic, made of people, with life cycles.
For all their connections and delineations, they need
positioning and poise.
To be more diversified, they need more connections and critical mass.
To be more inclusive, they need more core and cohesion.
Balance also lies in being measured and mindful.
More cats in the Primer for Partners.