Plenary: Enhancing Donor-Implementer Collaboration

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Presenter: Valerie Stetson, Independent Consultant

Strong communication and relationships between key food security stakeholders (field implementers and policy-makers/donors) are essential for mutual understanding and successful collaboration.  Openness, trust, dialogue and relations are pre-conditions for collaborative learning, innovation and positive change.  How we converse and work together often determines the success of what we strive to achieve together.  By listening and learning from each other, food security stakeholder groups contribute to informed food security policy and improved program implementation - that in turn enhances program results.
This session provided an opportunity for food security stakeholders to share perspectives.  They reflected on strengths, best practices and what they appreciate about the work of the other stakeholder group.  They also discussed expectations for future work and collaboration.

This session used an appreciative inquiry approach to bring donors/policymakers and implementers together to look at one another’s strengths and assets and to articulate and share the expectations they hold of the other group. The activity began by dividing donors and implementers separately into small groups of up to 12 people. Each group discussed these three questions:

o   What do we see as our strengths?

o   What do we appreciate about the other group?

o   What are our expectations of the other group?

Donors and policymakers expressed that they appreciate the following about the implementers: their technical and field experience; their knowledge of the field, their innovation and creativity; the work that they do; their ability to mobilize domestic networks in the U.S. for advocacy; the way they keep donors/policymakers honest and let them know if they’re not doing such a great job; the way they serve as innovation labs for a lot of great ideas; their multifaceted approach (combining humanitarian and development programs); their commitment to working in difficult areas; and their ability to work in consortium.

Implementers expressed that they appreciate the following about the donors and policymakers: their transparency; the program monitoring and provision of feedback; the encouragement to work in consortium; the spirit of partnership and knowledge sharing; the willingness to be a resource for seeking solutions; the flexibility in implementing activities; the provision of financial support; and the availability of technical documentation that helps implementers to manage programs in the field.

Toward the end of the session, two or three of the participants from the donor/policymaker tables joined each of the implementer tables. The representatives of each group shared their expectations of the other group and engaged in dialogue around those expectations at each table.

Donors and policymakers expressed the following expectations of the implementers: think about nutrition and food security as two issues that go hand-in-hand; work well together in consortium and “play nice”; don’t be afraid to tell us if a particular approach is not achieving results—be honest about whether an approach should be changed and we will be flexible; take WASH into account in your programming.

Implementers expressed the following expectations of donors and policymakers: fewer demands to keep us from being overwhelmed; improve communication with donors about the challenges that our projects might face; feel empowered to advocate for more funding for West Africa; more support in helping us to coordinate among one another; extend funding over a longer cycle (for example, 5 to 10 years) so that we can see results better; make money available as soon as possible so that we can build the capacity of staff in the field.

Implementers also noted that within the implementation community, there was a need for the development of a culture of learning to link what we say with what we do, for strong leadership in implementer programs, and for better coordination, and for strong partnerships with the donor.