3. Why partner, and why not to

Working out why to partner is a basic step, but one that is sometimes neglected. CARE has a commitment to localising aid and therefore would prioritise working in partnerships with local actors during an emergency. Having said this, every context is different and there may be good reasons for CARE to implement directly. Ultimately, saving lives is paramount during an emergency and choosing to partner should contribute to a more effective response.

3.1.1 Issues to consider for deciding partnerships

• Do potential partners exist with proven ability to conduct similar activities?
• Can they help establish operations rapidly without compromising quality?
• Will their knowledge of communities and context increase effectiveness?
• Will they be able to access or reach beneficiaries that CARE cannot?
• Do CARE or its key programme staff already know the partners or their staff?
• Are there no regulations imposed by authorities or donors that discourage working with partners?
• Are potential partners seen as legitimate parties by the authorities?
• Do potential partners have a good reputation in the target communities?
• Is it possible to find neutral, independent and impartial partners?

The more positive answers, the more reason to partner. However, if just one or two of these conditions are met, it is worth thinking hard whether partnering is a good idea.

Experience shows that partnering can really add value in emergencies. Benefits include:

  • Speed of response-Partners with established operations in an area can get a response running quickly. But ensuring adequate quality is essential too.
  • Access and reach-Local partners can sometimes access insecure areas that CARE cannot. But remember that trust is needed if work cannot be monitored easily. Partnering can also be one way to scale-up programmes.
  • Technical resource-Partners sometimes have capacity and expertise that CARE does not. But remember, CARE should still be competent to monitor.
  • Knowledge/experience-Local agencies often have stronger links with and knowledge of beneficiaries. This can really enhance programme quality. But also consider the context, and whether partiality might be a problem.
  • Legitimacy/mandate-Partners might have a stronger mandate or greater legitimacy to conduct certain types of activity, for example, monitoring or advocacy.
  • Capacity building-Capacity building might be a valid aim of partnerships in an emergency. But it should be part of a pre-agreed plan to do so.

Reasons for partnering in development programmes don’t always apply in emergencies. Some reasons that can turn out to be the bad ones for partnering in an emergency include:

  • To build capacity-In an emergency, effectiveness is the key concern. Unless CARE has long-term plans and is well prepared, it is also unlikely to be able to invest significantly in partner capacity, except by providing simple technical assistance (TA).
  • Limited funds-Making funds go further is a good aim, but is secondary to providing adequate services. Also, partnering increases the costs of oversight, technical assistance and maybe risks of disallowed costs.
  • To evade donor rules-It is wrong to see partnering as a way to get around rules on procurement, logistics or financial accountability. Indeed, partnering is probably tougher for CARE, as it is responsible for partner compliance.
  • Limited capacity-Managing partner contracts demands finance and support capacity, and resource is also required for oversight and TA. Instead of being a reason to partner, limited capacity is a reason not to programme at all.
  • Recruitment problems-Problems with finding good staff are unlikely to be solved by partnering. If INGOs can’t do it, it is unlikely that their partners can.
  • Safety and security-Partnering due to concerns about safety and security of CARE staff might not be respectful of partners’ rights to them too. These issues should at least be properly discussed with partner agencies.
  • Because CARE should partner-Although partnering is important for CARE, it won’t always be the best way to work. There should always be good reasons to partner. In emergency, increasing effectiveness is all that really matters.

Who decides when to partner and with whom? This decision should ideally be taken during the Emergency Preparedness Planning (EPP) phase. Decisions around partnerships are usually made by a committee that is composed of representative staff from all departments. In chapter 5.1, the selection process and the functioning of the decision making committee will be explained.