Lesson Learned Partner Engagement

At a Glance

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Resource Posted: 
Thursday, August 24, 2017

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Context and Challenges faced
 
Throughout the life of project, Konbit should support an estimate 100 service providers (CDSPs) and at least 37 awardees as part of its capacity building mandate. In year one, a notable challenge has been to secure and maintain the interest of organizations and in compelling them to commit effort and time to meaningfully participating in the project (e.g: Round Tables).
These challenges may result from the following problems:
1. Lack of an initial consultative process at project design/implementation phase that could have served to help understand what were the organizations´ motivations to join Konbit, their expectations and motives, and how the project could have better positioned itself to address these;
2.  Lack of financial incentives (for CDSPs) and/or misinformation around potential value-added that can be generated and/or business opportunities that can be generated as a result of their participation in Konbit;
3. “Competition” with other USAID project also offering capacity building support: organizations do not understand why they should commit time and effort to Konbit if they are already receiving similar support through other USAID projects (LEVE, LOKAL+, etc.);
4. Engrained and pervasive understanding by many organizations that capacity building is tied to financial or material support, possibly a legacy of the approach used by post-earthquake donor-funded projects, mostly focused on generating quick returns to beneficiaries given their emergency and recovery mandates.
 
Solution 
 
Demotivation was visible for some partner organizations, mostly CDSPs. In view of this challenge, the project team took stock of the situation to identify weaknesses in its approach and revise its partner engagement strategy.
 
Results achieved/ Lesson Learned
 
Konbit´s success depends largely on commitment and buy-in from its partner organizations. However these conditions do not emerge naturally and cannot be assumed to exist a priori; organizations need to see tangible value-added stemming from their participation in the project, otherwise willingness to commit time and effort to project activities will be low.
 
The lesson-learned that emerged from this experience is that successful partner engagement strategies need to be based on nuanced understanding and thorough consideration of the different drivers, motivations and incentives that compel each organization to meaningfully participate in the project. To reach such understanding, Konbit must maintain open and regular conversations with organizations to ensure it is in position to match their expectations while still respecting the limits of what the project can and should offer.

 
Application of the solution

Successful partner engagement approaches should be consultative and not take partner buy-in as a given; from the outset, they should be informed by nuanced understanding and thorough consideration of the different drivers, motivations and incentives that may compel an organization to meaningfully participate in a project.

For year 2, Konbit will test a new partner engagement approach that rests on the following strategic actions:
 
1. Hold individual conversations with organizations on a regular basis to understand their expectations of the project, and how these may evolve throughout time, in order to position Konbit´s support more strategically in relation to these;
2. Continue to emphasize the critical role played by knowledge, improved practice and innovation as foundational basis for real and tangible organization capacity upgrades in an attempt to deconstruct the pervasive understanding, among many organizations, that capacity building equals financial and material support. This includes identifying jointly with organizations what they can contribute to the process as well;
3. Continue to emphasize the role Konbit can play as a door to potential money-making opportunities, such as, for instance, by showcasing examples of organizations that were able to market their services more widely and generate new businesses as a result of their participation in Konbit activities;
3. Continue to work in close collaboration with other USAID projects currently providing capacity building support to organizations to clarify roles, optimize efforts, strengthen synergies and mitigate risks of unwanted competition (representatives from other projects will be engaged in a range of Konbit activities, e.g: Round Tables, etc.).

Recommendation
Successful partner engagement approaches should be consultative and not take partner buy-in as a given; from the outset, they should be informed by nuanced understanding and thorough consideration of the different drivers, motivations and incentives that may compel an organization to meaningfully participate in a project.
 

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