How do we build strong local-international partnerships?

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    • What is necessary for a successful partnership between local actors and international organizations?

      The localization agenda is gaining increasing attention and investment. A successful and sustainable shift to local leadership requires collaboration across fields and contexts to identify challenges, lessons, and best practices. With this goal in mind, I’d like to know:

      What are the key considerations for effective partnerships between local actors and international organizations?

      I’d appreciate input from both local actors who have worked in partnership with international organizations and international organizations that have partnered with local entities. If you’re exploring or undergoing a local-international partnership and would like specific information or advice, you are more than welcome to ask your own questions in this thread.

       

    • Thank you for the question, Betül! I’m really excited for all of our partners & ConnexUs users to join us on Wednesday, 20 July, for this conversation!

       

      In the meantime, my name is Zander Willoughby, I’m a Communications Officer for ConnexUs here at Search for Common Ground. I’m based in Washington, DC, but am originally from Michigan, in the USA. I have local experience as a mediator & mediation trainer in Northern Indiana, and global/international experience working on advocacy and collective action for peacebuilding as well as working on ConnexUs, a global learning platform. I’m so excited to learn a lot from each of you & to hear so many important perspectives on local-international partnerships.

       

      See you all Wednesday! Feel free to introduce yourself in the comments before then.

      • This is a great question, Betül, and I’m really looking forward to hearing perspectives from local and international actors alike.

        Thanks for opening the introduction floor, Zander! My name is Emily and I’m a Programs Officer at Search for Common Ground, also based in the United States. I hope to connect with people doing local advocacy work in other countries.

         

    • I like your thought-provoking question Betül! I’m looking forward to the discussion that sprouts from this!

      I’m Sydney and I am currently an intern with Search and ConnexUs. I’m getting my Master’s from Gallaudet University in International Development with a focus on language rights, education policy, and gender equality. Really looking forward to learning from the local and international perspectives here this Wednesday.

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    • Looking forward to today’s conversation! I’m really curious, has anyone made any videos, podcasts, short stories, etc. about really effective local-international partnerships? I’d love to see those stories! If not, is anyone working on telling their story?

      • I know Stopping As Success, which specifically looks at the transition from INGOs to local organizations, has a list of case studies that can be found here: Case Studies – Stopping As Success. Would someone from the SAS+ consortium who worked on these case studies recommend/highlight any in particular?

        • Thanks for flagging this, Emily.

          Indeed the case studies have really interesting examples of transitions around the globe. The case studies are organized by geography and the map (in the link above) serves as a nice guide based on what you might be looking for. They are all quite interesting and varied based on type of transition, context, etc., so if anyone is looking for something specific, please do reach out and I’ll try to refer you as best I can.

        • Oh awesome! I really like this case studies map, I’m definitely going to be looking into some of these. Thanks, Grace & Emily

           

    • Hi there,
      My name is Melinda, joining this discussion from Johannesburg, South Africa. I work for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as a Project Officer for a pan-African peace education project Africa Peacebuilding Institute (API). I represent an international org partnering with local participants. I can speak broadly on how MCC does local partnerships, but will focus on API for now…

      This is our 2nd year providing API’s annual training online! In the previous 20 years, all participants would travel to a venue in South Africa or Zambia. Whether we liked it or not, Covid-19 caused us to look at the “localization” of API. With help of an external grant, we were able to try this out in February 2022. We offered a week-long peacebuilding course to 30 participants in 3 different countries through “learning pods.” The facilitator joined via Zoom from Zimbabwe, while the participants gathered in conference venues in Chad, Nigeria and South Sudan and joined via one large Zoom screen.
      None of this would have been possible without our existing MCC local partner networks. For months leading up to the training, we regularly met (via Zoom) with 3 “focal points” in each country to discuss the logistics of the course. These focal points were recruited from existing contacts, one is a current MCC staff. They were truly our key to success! Each focal point in each location was tasked with venue hire, transport and meals, recruiting participants, enforcing Covid-19 regulations in their context, and ensuring internet and other needs were met for the week of the training. They even went the extra mile and organized local field trips outside of class hours, as well! No API staff traveled internationally  (or even provincially) for this training.
      There was only one occasion where protests near the learning pod in Chad caused the power (and internet) to drop. The participants lost nearly 2 days of the course. However, together with the focal point who is also a trained facilitator, they were able to carry their own discussions and found the time was not wasted, after all.
      In fact, it was such a success that API has decided “localization” is the way forward for us. Apart from our annual training taking place online in August, we will continue to offer special courses in this “learning pod” format. We have found that this hybrid format of technology and in-person gathering is the best way for us to expand our networks and continue to offer peace education to more and more African peacebuilders.

      P.S. to Zander’s question, I have not produced any report on this but, I am hoping that this discussion will guide my writing for MCC’s online publication “Intersections” (https://mcc.org/stories/intersections) on the very topic of localization. Thanks!

      • Thanks, Melinda! So glad you’re here for today’s discussion. It’s really interesting to hear API‘s model to bridge geographic divides during the pandemic & also fully eliminate the need for international staff travel (plug: ConnexUs’ Climate Change & Conflict thematic action area). It sounds like this experience, though forced by COVID, might lead to further localization of programming. Do you think it took seeing that it could work to make the push? I feel like I hear a lot of ‘we’d love to localize, we just don’t know what it would look like.’

        P.s. Amazing! I’m really looking forward to reading Intersections: MCC theory & practice quarterly!

      • Thanks, Melinda! So great to hear an MCC voice, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few folks from MCC in DC and in Nigeria. One thing that I’ve appreciated seeing during the pandemic is this breakdown of geographic divides, for you and I to have a call between DC & Joburg is just as easy (barring time zones!) as it is to meet someone else in the city. It’s been really great to see colleagues from all over the world fairly regularly via Zoom, on Thursday Talks, etc instead of just at in-person conferences where we only get to go if we’re lucky enough to get funding for it and only see others who were lucky enough to get funding as well. Also, I took a look at MCC Intersections, very keen to read more!

      • Hi Melinda,

        Thanks so much for your comment! I found it very insightful to see how local partnership brings effective solutions, especially during the pandemic. Also, MCC’s project is a great example of local organizations enabling sustainable development through education.

        I appreciate you mentioned some logistical problems as well. To follow up on that point, I wonder what was the main challenges you observed working with local organizations and building partnership with them? What recommendations do you have to overcome those challenges? 

        PS; Any contributions from other colleagues on these points will be more than welcomed!

    • Thank you for sharing Melinda, and thank you ConnexUs for hosting this conversation! My name is Anaïs Caput, I work on program design at Search for Common Ground.

      Reading your post Melinda, and from my experience supporting design, I see having local partners or local stakeholders play a key role in the design of a program as critical – such as the 3 focal points you mentioned! Too often, we see programs being designed without significant or meaningful contribution from local actors, and then we expect that it will lead to effective partnerships between local actors and international organizations.

      I have seen design processes where we pass a pre-defined set of activities onto a local partner, and then expect them to implement them as such, and ask them to have ownership and a strong sense of accountability towards impact as they are asked to implement. It often leads to frustration and ineffective partnerships. On the other hand, I have see well co-designed processes, during which both international organizations and local actors take the time to share their analysis of the contexts, and offer ideas and solutions based on their respective strength and added value, it definitely leads to much stronger partnerships! But often, organizations are constrained by tight proposal development timelines, and lack of resources to invest in these design processes…

      Hopefully we can see more and more long term partnerships between international organizations and local actors, not only transactional, or one-way partnerships, but rather based on information and expertise exchanges, peer-to-peer support, etc. – like this platform supports!

      Thank you ConnexUs and looking forward to hearing other perspectives!

       

    • Hi everyone,

      I’m Victor Okechukwu Chimezie a passionate grassroots peacebuilder from Nigeria with over five years of peacebuilding in Nigeria via peace advocacy or peace education for young people. I’m also the Team Lead of a small initiative I set up of young people known as Mind Reformers Network as well as a United States Institute for Peace Generation Change Fellow.

       

      It’s nice being here

      • Hi Victor, I’m glad you’re joining this discussion and I’m really looking forward to your insights!

        May I ask – as a local peacebuilder, what has your experience with international organizations been like? Thank you!

    • Hi Emily,

      So it has really been difficult. I have a team of young people who I gathered together to set up the Mind Reformers Network team and we help get young people interested in and committed to peacebuilding processes in their communities. I have led the team to hold projects reaching over 5000 young people across seven Nigerian cities. However, I struggle to hold all these projects as it’s really pretty difficult assessing funding or support or getting a solid structure as we’re a team of young people (though willing to do the work). We do pull through using ourselves to spread the message of peace and peace education. We have held talks in schools, trainings and workshops for young people across Nigeria https://m.facebook.com/mrn4youths/ . It’s been five years in this and I just try to improve myself more with positioning and capacity building to see if I can attract funding to build a solid structure.  I believe that young people should be at the centre of peacebuilding in Africa because of the high rate of young people being used as instruments of violence and extremism and this is why I’m focused on youths in peacebuilding inclusion.

      • Hi everyone, my name is Michael Robinson and I work for Search for Common Ground on the Institutional Learning Team.

        Hi Victor, thank you for sharing about your interesting work setting up the Mind Reformers Network in Nigeria and carrying out peacebuilding work. I think you’ve identified a really critical challenge many peacebuilders working at a local level face. I would be curious to know if you’ve had collaborations with other networks or organizations at the local, national, or international level before? If so, have these collaborations allowed for mutual capacity building, or opportunities for you to discuss the challenges you’ve faced around assessing funding? Thanks for your contributions to the discussion!

    • Hi Michael,

      Truly, I have been able to collaborate with a few local organizations and a few international organizations but it has only been on one off projects and on few occasions to collaborate but not on the long run. For example, I got mini grant funding from Peace First to hold a three day online Peacebuilding training for 104 Nigerian youths in 2020 and a few others. However, I had always looked for an organization or mentor partner who can help provide funding and as well as Mentorship to build structure for the fellow passionate youths who are ready and eager to build peace in their localities. This has been seemingly impossible over the years. This is the challenge many grassroots led peacebuilders across Nigeria and Africa face.

      For grassroots Peacebuilders and grassroots led initiatives there’s need for partnership support and funding to build solid structure because workers at the grassroots are closer to the people and understand the problem more but just handicapped

      • Hi Victor,

        Thanks for sharing more of the context to these challenges, including in being able to access longer-term partnerships with organizations that could provide a mentorship and/or funding support role. I welcome others grappling with these issues to join the discussion and share what they have learned.

        I also completely agree that the peacebuilding field (as well as humanitarian and development fields) needs to focus on how funding structures and partnership models can better support peacebuilders and initiatives led at a local level.

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      My Name is Joy Baiye, I work for Search for Common Ground in Nigeria, missed this conversation, will read through .

      • Thanks for joining, Joy! I’d be curious if anything in particular stuck out to you in this discussion

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