A Multi-Stakeholder Partnership assignment reflection
“Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships are basically about participatory decision making, where all actors involved take ownership in all stages of decision making."
International development essentially revolves around international cooperation between partners. Regardless of whether partners have a similar objective in mind, practitioners of international development will be the first to admit that cooperating internationally (and specifically North-South cooperation) can be challenging at times. To conclude the second module of the AMID-program, ‘Challenges in Cooperating for Change’, the AMID-trainees gained a firsthand experience of how it is to collaborate across borders while working on a shared project: a Multi-Stakeholder Partnership (MSP) assignment.
To acquaint the AMID-trainees with some of the more challenging aspects of development cooperation, the MSP assignment was fittingly designed to be a group-assignment, in which the trainees were asked to select a case of international cooperation, in which multiple partners work towards a common objective. After selecting a case, the trainees conducted interviews with a variety of stakeholders involved in the project, to analyze if the stakeholders involved were able to identify any challenges in different stages of the project cycle. Based on the interviews, the trainees worked on identifying the risks involved, and developed a set of guidelines to steer cooperation between the different partners within an MSP.
Module 2 was concluded with a series of presentations from the different groups on Friday 24th June, 2022; where discussions on various cases, risks and guidelines were explained. Although the cases were all different, some key takeaways stood out, such as:
- Some principles for cooperation (transparency, effective communication) need to be spelled out in cooperation agreements
- Before entering into an MSP, the partners need to have procedures in place that can be called upon by all partners involved
- Make sure that the local target group(s)/beneficiaries are involved – as partners – in all stages of the decision-making process, to ensure the quality of the intervention
When asked to reflect on the process of international collaboration on this MSP assignment, one AMID-trainee sighed: “[…] It was a bit confusing to let 5 people with completely different mindsets agree to certain solutions, ideas and recommendations”. In the complex reality of international development cooperation, however, it would be fair to say that anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation. As AMID-trainees who are newly entering the field of international development, confusion is an excellent place to learn something new from.
In as much as it sounds paradoxical to state that confusion is a great place to start, it allows for out of the box thinking when designing solutions. Having the AMID trainees (mostly working in different organizations) develop an MSP for one sector (within one chosen organization) outside their own, was an excellent way to synthesize thoughts and create an environment where non-biased ideas and suggestions could be pooled together to offer an exciting new lens through which challenges could be addressed.
A point on stakeholders having reservations when dealing with governments, noted widely within the groups, could be an avenue to unlocking research on overcoming this and fostering an environment where trust and faith takes centerstage. A systemic change to MSPs can bring to birth fruitful partnerships.
Ultimately one of the AMID trainees summed it up beautifully by stating that “… MSP’s are basically about participatory decision making where all involved actors take ownership in all stages of decision making.” We note that when this is taken into account and implemented, the partnerships would ideally face fewer hurdles and when they do occur, they are dealt with both effectively and efficiently.
When asked what changes they would make to the processes of developmental cooperation, there was general consensus on the need for a paradigm shift within the North – South cooperation dynamics. A situation whereby the global south leads from the forefront on decision making, strategic communications and fundraising, amongst others, would be most ideal. This ultimately creates an environment where solutions are bespoke to the targeted area(s) to deliver maximum impact.
“Less government control over how aid money is spent!” one AMID trainee lamented, with the argument that cash flows should, in as much a possible, reach the end beneficiaries aimed at creating a “form of distributive justice.”
All in all, it was a culmination of a module with great learnings, interactions, networking and most importantly, lots of fun!