Five Critical Factors for Working Well in Partnerships | Oxfam

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What are the critical factors in managing a good partnership? My experience coordinating the REE-CALL (Resilience through Economic Empowerment, Climate Change Adaptation, Leadership and Learning) programme in Bangladesh over the past five years has taught me that no matter how big the programme, or how complex, success depends on five critical factors. 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,file:///O:/INT PSI/Team/Learning and Knowledge Exchange/Content development team/aa-programme-learning/Partnering for Impact series/final/cs-critical-factors-bangladesh-310516.docx
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   OXFAM LEARNING PAPER - MAY 2016 www.oxfam.org  Joint visit of Oxfam and partners in the REE-CALL working area on September 8, 2014 (Photo credit: SKS REE-CALL project) FIVE CRITICAL FACTORS FOR WORKING WELL IN PARTNERSHIPS My experience in Bangladesh  –  by Ashish Kumar Bakshi What are the critical factors in managing a good partnership? My experience coordinating the REE-CALL (Resilience through Economic Empowerment, Climate Change Adaptation, Leadership and Learning) programme in Bangladesh over the past five years has taught me that no matter how big the programme, or how complex, success depends on five critical factors.  2  ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Ashish joined Oxfam in 2010, and has 19 years of experience in the development sector. In his current role as Rural Manager, one of his main responsibilities is to provide overall guidance to the team in regards to partnerships, including project planning and budgeting, capacity building of Oxfam colleagues and partners, ensuring programme quality through participatory monitoring, and facilitating learning and collaboration between Oxfam and partners. 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 INTRODUCTION What are the critical factors in managing a good partnership? My experience coordinating the REE-CALL (Resilience through Economic Empowerment, Climate Change Adaptation, Leadership and Learning) programme in Bangladesh over the past five years has taught me that no matter how big the programme, or how complex, success depends on five critical factors: ã  Trust, respect and mutual learning; ã  Shared values and commitment; ã  Joint participation, responsibilities and ownership; ã  Joint accountability; ã  Risk sharing. The REE-CALL programme is ambitious, aiming to ensure that women and men most at risk from disasters and climate change in Bangladesh are able to thrive, in spite of shocks and change. The aim of the project is to achieve resilience through an inclusive community-based approach. So far, Oxfam and 15 partner NGOs have reached 225,000 households in 14 of the most disaster-prone districts in Bangladesh, and organized around 800 community-based organizations (CBOs), amplifying their voice, securing rights and entitlements, and increasing their income through diversified livelihood options. 2 CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS To work well in a partnership, it is crucial from the outset for Oxfam to establish a functional working relationship with its partners. This can start through an assessment process and measuring the strategic fit between Oxfam and the partners. Equity, transparency, mutual benefit and ownership are critical success factors, and are based upon common goals, shared responsibility and mutual trust, respect and values.  Achieving the desired results of the project depends on the proactive roles of partners and their dedication to the vulnerable women and men being targeted. Oxfam’s approach should be very open in terms of sharing challenges, giving and receiving feedback, regular interaction and regular coordination meetings. Flexibility in decision making is also key. These guiding principles and processes help to develop and maintain successful partnerships.  4 TRUST, RESPECT AND MUTUAL LEARNING   Power imbalances, knowledge gaps, and absence of trust and respect can damage relationships with partners. Oxfam believes that development is an ongoing process that cannot be designed or controlled by international agencies. It recognizes that local partners have empirical knowledge and a greater understanding of the local context. Upholding this belief, Oxfam encourages a reciprocal learning process between itself and its partners through meetings, workshops, field visits, case story documentation and in many other ways. This learning process helps to expedite the knowledge and skills of Oxfam and partners for more effective implementation of the project interventions. SHARED VALUES AND COMMITMENT   Oxfam and partners uphold the values of empowering people living in poverty, women and those who are marginalized. They also promote inclusiveness, and accountability to rights holders. Oxfam’s partnerships ought to be initiated on the basis of similarity in organizational vision. This contributes to more effective and stronger associations. Moreover, the commitment of Oxfam and its partners to the same goal ensures the partnership is strong and stable, and results in positive changes in the lives of poor and vulnerable people. JOINT PARTICIPATION, RESPONSIBILITIES  AND OWNERSHIP   Oxfam and partners should share responsibility at all stages of project planning and management, and in quality control, cost management, risk management and dealing with stakeholders. The participation of partner NGOs is not always possible at the design stage of a project. In Bangladesh, for instance, we decided to incorporate potential partners in consultation meetings in the context analysis and proposal development phases. This improved the level and quality of participation from the partners, and thus of the programme. Joint participation and responsibility does not always mean that every stakeholder does everything. Each member of the partnership has particular strengths: for example, within the REE-CALL programme partners took a more significant role in local-level advocacy, influencing service providers and mobilizing local resources.
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