It is no secret that those in control of resources dictate the development agenda. They set the vision, objectives, and expected results — sometimes with good intentions and transparency, sometimes to further their own political interests and agendas.
We need to establish an arrangement where all stakeholders (financing agencies, host governments, implementing partners, communities, etc.) benefit and find common ground, which requires redefining roles and responsibilities across the board.
Financing agencies, often referred to as market makers, shape demand and try to influence how host governments engage with them. They often prioritize their own strategic interests when engaging host governments, civil society organizations, local communities and international NGOs. Financing agencies often overlook the potential of community-driven interventions, which sometimes lends itself to a skewed understanding of the situation on the ground and can lead to poorly designed frameworks.
While there is typically a desire to reach consensus through a consultative process, complacency prevails at times. This can lead to maintaining the status quo and proposing sub-par design frameworks instead of nurturing genuine partnerships through dialogue.
Governments are often skeptical of donors’ political agendas and want to have full control over development. While it is understandable, governments that lack good governance tend to exclude others, distrust the private sector, and view NGOs and civil society with suspicion, fearing a threat to their authority. They do not provide a platform for local communities to voice their opinions, and transparency can be hindered by the interests of a narrow political elite.
Implementing partners, whether local, regional or international, are often seen as market takers. They usually align with the agendas of financing agencies. Their focus is on responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) and other procurement mechanisms. Except for a few organizations that invest in research and development, most are primarily concerned with meeting client needs and implementing projects. They must comply with the clients’ regulations, which consumes a significant amount of time. There’s nothing wrong with being responsive, compliant and efficient, but we should strive for more innovation in project design and implementation that incorporates the requirements of beneficiaries and local conditions.
Collaboration for a better way forward
Those who control the resources often fail to recognize that development is about improving the lives of local communities, not about their own interests. Development is about saving lives, educating children, lifting communities out of poverty, creating jobs and livelihoods with dignity, and unlocking the potential of youth.
The way forward involves collaboration between financing agencies, host governments, local communities (referred to as local partners instead of beneficiaries) and implementing partners (local, regional, and international).
Implementing partners can play a catalytic role in introducing new approaches and ideas for transformative and sustainable development. To remain relevant, they must invest effort in research and development, providing evidence-based solutions to local problems and influencing funding decisions at the government and financing agency levels. They can bring community needs to the forefront through active engagement, dialogue, and listening and ensure adequate funding for interventions.
For example, Creative founded the Development Alliance (Dev-Alliance) as a strategic alliance between five companies to support local and regional efforts to address economic, social and educational challenges in the Middle East and North Africa. The Dev-Alliance leverages talents, skills, cultural knowledge and geographic expertise of the companies — including one in the United States, three in Jordan and one in West Bank and Gaza — to improve locally conceived, designed and led programs.
Five questions for reflection
Implementing partners possess the expertise, network and experience to influence decision-making processes. If you are an implementing partner, reflect on these five questions to take stock of how your approach is serving communities.
- How can implementors act as honest mediators between governments and the private sector?
- How can implementors build trust as intermediaries between the host government and local communities?
- How can implementors identify international best practices that can be adapted to local contexts?
- What resources, political will and commitments are required to embark on this path?
- How can international and local organizations engage in a reciprocal strategic partnership to identify thematic issues that could further or enhance development objectives?
Learn more here about how Creative is supporting meaningful partnership through the Dev-Alliance.