Are consortia a good way forward?

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This paper seeks to highlight the challenges that can be experienced when managing consortia and to propose possible solutions. Consortia are becoming increasingly commonplace and have distinct differences from the usual partnerships. Consequently, there is a need for clear guidelines on how to manage them. Oxfam faces challenges in this regard because its traditional ways of working in partnerships are not always agile enough to respond to this new model of working. Partnering for Impact series To do the work it does, Oxfam works closely with partners at all stages of the programme, in all kind of contexts: humanitarian, influencing, development, etc. But what does it mean for our staff? Each day brings new challenges and opportunities, so how do they do it? Following a reflective and productive writeshop, this Partnering for Impact series was developed to share and explore learning from experienced practitioners about what it takes to 'work well in partnership'.
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   OXFAM LEARNING PAPER - MAY 2016 www.oxfam.org  Illustration by Christine Harrison ARE CONSORTIA A GOOD WAY FORWARD? My experience in Kenya  –  by Dunstan Macharia This paper seeks to highlight the challenges that can be experienced when managing consortia and to propose possible solutions. Consortia are becoming increasingly commonplace and have distinct differences from the usual partnerships. Consequently, there is a need for clear guidelines on how to manage them. Oxfam faces challenges in this regard because its traditional ways of working in partnerships are not always agile enough to respond to this new model of working.  2  ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dunstan has over 10 years‟ experience in grants management, specifically in the areas of budget administration and controls, programmes management, implementation of donor agreements and contracts, and capacity building of civil society organizations in financial compliance and management systems. He holds a Master of Business  Administration (MBA, Accounting) and a BA degree, both from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He also holds a Certified Public Accountant (Kenya) certificate and a certificate in Project Design, Monitoring and Evaluation. In his current role with Oxfam as Partnership Finance Officer, he ensures that partnership policy requirements are observed in all of Oxfam‟s  engagements with project partners it funds. The role provides a bridge between programmes and finance by providing leadership and direction for effective grants management support to Oxfam staff and Country Programme Partners. He has been in the role for the last four years and eight months. PARTNERING FOR IMPACT SERIES To do the work it does, Oxfam works closely with partners at all stages of the programme, in all kind of contexts: humanitarian, influencing, development, etc. But what does it mean for our staff? Each day brings new challenges and opportunities, so how do they do it? Following a reflective and productive writeshop 1 , this Partnering for Impact series was developed to share and explore learning from experienced practitioners about what it takes to “work well in partnership”.   3 1 WHAT IS A CONSORTIUM?  A consortium can be defined as a grouping of organizations that jointly participate in the design and delivery of a particular objective. The focus is not only on joint delivery, but also on joint design and hence, shared ownership (of both risks and responsibility). Pros and cons of consortium funding mechanisms Pros Cons Sectoral coordination Delays in decision making Geographic coverage Heavy administration costs for the lead agency that are not always fully covered by the funding Leveraging of existing expertise across members Poor monitoring and reporting oversight IMPLEMENTING PARTNERSHIPS CONSORTIA   Transactional arrangements  Added risks for the lead agency Co-created activities Complex relationships Capacity building needs Local NGOs and CBOs Service delivery Joint planning, design and ownership Peers with similar systems (Mostly INGOs) Sub-contractor-like relationships with clear deliverables (practice rather than policy)  4 2 THE CASE OF THE LA NIÑA CONSORTIUM The La Niña Consortium was formed in February 2011 in response to the 2010/11 food security crisis that affected the Horn of Africa. The aim of the consortium in 2011 and 2012 was to support communities living in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) of northern Kenya to cope and recover from the crisis, as well as help them prepare and plan for future crises. The consortium continues to build on emergency response activities by investing in strengthening the resilience of people with longer-term support, especially targeted at women and children in the  ASALs. The consortium was initially composed of five international NGOs who came together to implement an integrated multi-sectoral programme, synergizing their different strengths and competencies. The partners included Oxfam (consortium lead), ACTED, VSF Germany, VSF Suisse and VSF Belgium. In 2012, Concern Worldwide also joined. The consortium had extensive experience in integrated humanitarian interventions with longer-term objectives to address the problems of poverty and vulnerability of pastoral communities in the ASALs. Each partner brought an area of sectoral expertise to the consortium, with learning, innovation and technical capacity shared with all partners across the targeted counties. The consortium‟s multi -sectoral expertise ensured a holistic approach to programming, which is vital to strengthen community resilience. The structure of the La Niña consortium: Oxfam Local NGO CBO CBO/Local NGO INGO CBO INGO Local NGO
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