2. Be prepared: Partnering starts during preparedness

It is not always possible to establish partnerships before an emergency hits. Often, this is done ‘on-the-go’ which results in a tendency to ‘subgrant’ rather than partner more meaningfully. While this should be avoided, it is never too late to partner, however. Even in the midst of crisis, responding in partnership can add substantial value and should always be explored, while being mindful of the challenges and pitfalls. The guidelines are relevant for such situations and do not presuppose previous experience of partnering. Nor do they assume that all offices have partnering procedures or existing partners.

This being said, the best time to establish partnerships is outside of crises. Partnering is complex and requires time, effort, courage and vision.  Getting to know another agency (its objectives, capacities, and culture), building trust, defining the added value of the partnership, and agreeing on a joint programme, can best be done over time, as part of the Emergency Preparedness Process.  See Annex xx: Partnering as part of the EPP process (Guidelines currently under revision).

Preparing together, before an emergency hits, leads to:

  • More predictability of the joint response (what we aim to achieve together, who will provide what and play which role based on our respective assets and complementarities, how we will conduct joint needs assessments, what will trigger a response,)
  • Readiness to kick off or scale up the partnership (partnership agreement existing or pre-agreed, capacity and due diligence assessments completed, risks assessed and mitigated, procedures pre-agreed for fund transfer and programmatic/financial monitoring, pre-agreed and tested tools for response, from pre-costed project proposals to monitoring tools)
  • Greater readiness of the partner’s organization to respond (key gaps pre-identified and capacity development underway, readiness to scale up, e.g. staff; funding, procuring supplies, managing heighted security) CARE’s enhanced readiness to respond in partnership (updated mapping of local capacities and partners, trust established with identified partners, procedures in place, staff ready and skilled to support partners, simplified compliance and monitoring tools; pre-agreed joint communications and media protocol).

Some simple preparedness measures for partnering might include:

  • identifying existing or new partners to include in preparedness planning-for example, it might be possible to identify partners in disaster-prone areas
  • keeping up-to-date mappings of local organisations and their capacities
  • Creating space for discussions with and feedback from local organizations on how to build mutually valuable and effective partnerships
  • offering training on emergency approaches and standards to partners (including Sphere, gender, humanitarian accountability)
  • building the capacity of staff as trainers
  • documenting and translating standard programme approaches and tools
  • concluding framework agreements that cover collaboration in emergencies
  • establishing partnership agreement and funding procedures and tailoring them for emergencies
  • providing training for support and programme staff on roles, responsibilities and good practices to manage partner relationships
  • including provisions on emergency in normal sub-grant/partnership agreements.

The principles of partnership outlined in Section 1 have gradually been incorporated into working methods and are increasingly seen as part of a ‘new business model’ for CARE in emergencies, wherein local partners and local communities are not only at the heart of the response, but are also involved in prevention and preparedness right through to early recovery and longer-term development.

The following sections will assist in considering whether and how to work with partners, critical success factors of partnerships, and which steps to take in each phase of the partnership process.