Working with partners: what’s it all about?

Methodology

LEARNING:

What does working in partnership mean for Oxfam and the vulnerable people we seek to help? Audrey Lejeune, Programme Learning Adviser and Yo Winder, Global Partnerships and Accountability Adviser, introduce a series of learning papers on working with partners.

You probably know that Oxfam works with others to fight poverty and inequality around the world. But who are these ‘others’? Frankly speaking, Oxfam could not do the work it does without partners.

Oxfam could not do the work it does without partners.We have committed staff across the world, working in various head offices, country and regional offices, but our staff alone could never have reached the 11.8 million people Oxfam helped last year. In order to achieve real impact we engage in partnerships with others, working collaboratively to reach our common objective of fighting poverty and inequality.

What does that mean in practice? There are many different models of partnerships, Oxfam doesn’t work with a local women’s group as we do with the United Nations. But the same principles and values underline everything we do, as we aim to bring our expertise and logistical, and financial, capacity into partnerships. If Oxfam starts a new programme in, for example, Haiti, who best to do this work than a local community-based NGO with the local knowledge, infrastructure and networks. Working
with others ensures higher quality and effectiveness, as well as reducing the risk of duplication of effort and messaging, and ensuring a more sustainable programme. Simply put, together we are stronger.

‘Partnerships are relationships. Just like marriage and other relationships, they need revival, excitement, continuous engagement, etc, for them to survive and remain beneficial to the parties involved.

Mutinta Nketani, Grants and Compliance Officer in Zambia

The world is changing and it’s our ambition that this change be channelled to do permanent good for those who are most vulnerable. This means we need to learn to work in partnership with an increasing variety of organisations and individuals, really listening to how others believe change can be achieved and working effectively with them in their contexts.

We hope this Partnering for Impact series will provide food for thought for development actors from many types of organization, all in the spirit of solidarity.

Oxfam and our partners’ work is strengthened when there is clear and quality collaboration, but of course there are challenges. We want to learn from our successes and mistakes, which is why we recently invited staff working on different programmes in Oxfam’s country offices to share their experience of partnership.

What came out is the Partnering for Impact series, ten pieces of writing about everything from working in consortia, to setting up a network of partners, to building local leadership in emergencies, and building a win-win partnership approach. This series, written by and for development practitioners, is an exciting step along the path to achieving more effective change through partnership.

Clearly, Oxfam could not do the work it does without all our fantastic partners, whether they are a small women’s group in Rwanda or the United Nations. It’s important that we make clear how much we appreciate their work, that we are humble and light of  touch when we need to be, and supportive when they need us.

Let’s dispel the myth that Oxfam, and INGOS in general, are the sole leaders and doers in development. It’s a big world out there, there’s an awful lot of work to do. Meaningful, strong and trusted partnerships are part of our present and certainly our future. We hope this Partnering for Impact series will provide food for thought for development actors from many types of organization, all in the spirit of solidarity. We’d love to hear what you think, so do comment below or by email.

Audrey Lejeune: alejeune@oxfam.org.uk and Yoma Winder: ywinder@oxfam.org.uk

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Author: Audrey Lejeune
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.