DOCUMENT TAGS Locally led action
Local Organisations’ Reflections on Partnerships with Start Network
07 October 2021
In 2020, Start Network conducted a survey of 98 local and national organisations (75 men and 23 women from 32 countries) that had previously partnered with Start Network or a Start Network member. The objective of the survey was to better understand the ways in which the partnerships were working. The survey aimed to identify the challenges and opportunities for collaborative and equal partnerships between Start Network and Start Network members with local partners. This research and its recommendations will be beneficial to people and organisations working with or developing partnerships with local organisations in the humanitarian sector. It also highlights specific areas of learning for Start Network to work on internally. Ninety-four percent of local partners felt the interaction was either ‘very positive’ or ‘positive’, however, the majority (86%) also felt there was more Start Network or Start Network members should be doing to build a stronger relationship.
Key findings are presented on information-sharing, decision-making, long-term impacts, accountability, strengths, challenges and future needs.
- 81% of local partners thought information was shared equally, this was usually when it was transparent and regular, provided space for feedback and reflection, and was considerate of local partners’ needs and perspectives.
- 85% felt they had decision-making ownership over the project, however, only 13% of the 85% thought they had ownership over planning, project design and budgeting (with the rest having ownership mainly over implementation).
- 85% had positive long-term impacts: 85% thought that their credibility had improved; 87% felt the quality of their humanitarian activities improved; 81% felt that their organisations sustainability improved. Local partners usually credited long-term impacts to improved internal processes, increased partnerships and visibility and training (although these reasons were project specific).
- 85% of local partners reported that the community informed the project, generally not in project planning, but during needs assessments and community selection.
- 78% of local partners recognised feedback and complaints mechanisms during the project, with the majority feeling that they were appropriate and confidential.
- Local partners recognised their own value, for example many recognised their ability to build community trust and receive feedback from communities after responses and implementation have ended (this finding is project specific), to work in local contexts and have rapport with communities, and to respond quickly.
- Strengths of partnerships were stated by local partners as being able to access funding for forgotten crises creating positive impacts for communities, good communication and information sharing between organisations as well as flexibility to change project designs based on the specific needs and contexts of crises.
- Challenges of partnerships from the perspective of local partners were; the short amount of time to implement projects, lack of funding to sustain projects, poor communication, information-sharing , lack of transparency and lack of control over project design and budgeting.
The findings of the survey, combined with key partnership models in the humanitarian sector are used to inform Start Network’s future ways of working with local partners. The findings reaffirm where change is still needed, and where power still needs to shift partnership models. Some of the key takeaways are:
- To ensure humanitarian responses are context-specific and most beneficial to support the crisis-affected community, local partners called for greater decision-making power in planning, budgeting, and allocation.
- Going through intermediaries is not the preferred approach of local partners. Local partners sometimes felt left out of conversations, and often noted that intermediaries increased operational costs and reduced funding to support crises affected people.
- Local partners who have long term relationships with members spoke of trusting, respectful and valued partnerships. Ensuring partnerships are equitable and beneficial to local partners in short term and rapid responses has been shown to be more challenging and requires more attention from Start Network.
It is recommended that Start Network, and the wider humanitarian sector, intentionally recognises the capacity and perspectives of local organisations. To build collaborative and equal partnerships specific actions are proposed around funding and ways of working:
- Directly fund local partners as much as possible, reduce the number of INGOs with leadership roles in the partnership.
- Fund upfront or, design a pre-financing mechanism so that local organisations do not have to rely on their own resources, or wait for external support to begin humanitarian responses.
- Ensure budgeting is flexible so local partners can adapt budgets to respond to change in local contexts.
- Encourage equitable overhead sharing (through indirect-cost recovery (ICR)) so local partners can build a sustainable future.
WAYS OF WORKING
- Trust local partners to design and undertake humanitarian projects as an equal partner.
- Facilitate local partners to lead, whilst INGOs can provide technical assistance to local partners, opportunities should not be missed for learning to be reciprocal.
- Ensure projects do not start or end abruptly or unexpectedly. Support local partners before projects begin and continue the partnership beyond the end of funded projects.
- Be inclusive, communicate openly and transparently using the local organisations preferred language and communication channels.
- Allow time and space for reflection of partnerships and the experiences of local organisations in these partnerships.