ECB Adventures in Partnering (DOC)

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					ECB: Adventures in Partnering
Discussion #3: Does internal complexity make it
harder to partner with others?
World Vision is a very complex organization. As we seek to do our best for children we have a growing
number of internal tools, systems and approaches and are making huge investments in things like LEAP,
IPM, PMIS, GTRN and the HEA internal standards. Given all of this complexity a key question is does
this make it easier or harder to work with external partners?

The Partnering Strategic Intent for WV notes that the organization has a strong “internal orientation”
which it defines as a focus on managing internal issues to the detriment of engaging with external
organizations.1 Could it be that organizational drivers, internal performance management and the
growth of internally complexity is making it more difficult to partner with others? The counter
argument is that by improving the organization internally and investing in things like IPM, PMIS and HEA
standards we can increase consistency, quality and promote better practice so that we are more likely
to become what the Partnering Strategic Intent calls “a partner of choice”. From working closely with
other INGOs, ECB practitioners have developed a number of interesting perspectives on this debate.

Competition for staff time and attention

A common theme in many interviews of staff working
on ECB at the global, regional and national levels was
that staff find it hard to find the time to invest in
building collaborative relationships with other
organisations. In practice this is because our staff are
already partnering with many different groups. The
WV Partnership is called a partnership for a reason,
and national office and regional office colleagues have
to maintain partner style relations with a significant
number of support offices, regional offices and
countless expert groups. Lack of further staff time to
invest in external partnerships was a key challenge
                                                            Does WV’s internal complexity swallow
cited by many field and regional office contacts            up all the staff time and energy that
interviewed in ECB. Without the time to invest in           could be spent on external partnering?
relationships, external partnerships struggle to
develop the levels of trust and familiarity needed for good collaborative working. Servicing internal
partnering needs can swallow up much of the bandwidth staff have to do this. One solution is to
employ staff to specifically do the external partnership – but this has the disadvantage of making
partnering less sustainable and harder to start. In effect donors or investors are being asked to invest in
infrastructure before the benefits can be anticipated because good partnerships are highly fluid.
Requiring new funding for staff to run external partnerships also threatens to compartmentalise
partnership approaches from regular ways of working, separating them from key technical experts or
decision makers.

    Partnering Strategic Intent for World Vision 2010 -2015, GC Collaboration and Partnering, pp 7.

Tension between the internal and the external

WV’s various projects and internal initiatives seek to bring greater consistency, organizational coherence
and better practices across all the organization’s national offices. This can create tensions between
global internal perspectives and perspectives developed between agencies at the local or global level.
For example with LEAP, WV has an internal language, process and set of tools for design monitoring
and evaluation (DME) internally, but there is also an emerging need for interagency terminology for
aspects of DME such as joint assessment or evaluative approaches in the Humanitarian Sector. Like
most large organizations, WV’s emergency staff are caught between the internal and the external and
have to find ways to operate with both. This can become confusing and complex when collaborative
work needs to draw on capacity and approaches that have been developed internally. ECB’s experience
with work on Accountability and Impact measurement illustrates this well. Getting joint working around
impact measurement has been very difficult because each of the six global NGOs have their own
priorities, internal approaches and frameworks around DME. In contrast, one of the most successful
events in ECB was an Accountability workshop in February 2006 which brought all ECB agencies
together to work on a common approach to beneficiary accountability. This was possible because there
was little agreed internally at the time and so practitioners from each agency could come together to
solve a joint problem. From this flowed an interagency accountability guide, the Good Enough Guide,
and a common understanding of the issues.

Work with others needs to fit within our landscape

                                                             ECB has learnt that collaboratively developing
                                                             tools and / or approaches needs to fit well in
                                                             both internal agency and external sector
                                                             landscapes. Some collaborations, such as the
                                                             development of the Good Enough Guide in
                                                             Accountability (see above) have been like
                                                             building on a green field site. However some,
                                                             like Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) have been
                                                             harder as the landscape is already populated
                                                             with a wealth of single agency approaches,
  Is the broader landscape for collaboration a               external projects and global complexity. It
  “green field” or an already a crowded city?                has taken nearly two years to get experts to
                                                             come to a common understanding of what is
important and agree a way forward. In ECB’s experience the more tools, models and expert views
there are – the harder it can be to come to an agreement on joint working. In these cases it is the
environment that is the challenge and it is almost like trying to find space in a crowded city to build
something new. One way to get around this has been to work on joint projects that can work well with
internal agency approaches. In Bolivia, DRR practitioners are doing this in the development of a
common capacity and vulnerability assessment tool that complements single agency approaches. ECB’s
work on Staff Capacity has also been able to balance joint working with internal agency approaches by
conducting shared research into areas of common interest (e.g. Surge Capacity and Staff Retention) and
individual projects that can fit within the existing landscape of HR systems and approaches, (Such as the
joint simulations tool and the development of Humanitarian Competencies with CBHA). One field
practitioner has noted that “another benefit of ECB is that developing things internally can make them
very complicated, whereas developing things with others forces us to simplicity”.

To learn more……

“ECB: Adventures in Partnering” is a series of 14 discussion papers and case studies that represent the
views and experience of more than 30 World Vision field staff, technical specialists and managers who
are involved in the Emergency Capacity Building Project (ECB), a partnership with CARE, Catholic Relief
Services, Mercy Corps, Oxfam GB and Save the Children to “improve speed, quality, and effectiveness of
the humanitarian community to save lives, improve the welfare, and protect the rights of people in emergency

Papers in the series are:
 Discussion #1: “Avoiding delegated enthusiasm”
 Discussion #2: “More than talking; partnering means results”
 Case study A: “Coming together to reduce the impact of disasters in Bolivia”
 Case study B: “ Emergency Simulations”
 Discussion #3: “Does World Vision’s culture of internal complexity make it harder to partner?”
 Case study C: “Inter-agency response protocols for rapid onset emergencies in Indonesia”
 Discussion #4: “The dilemma of global initiatives and local implementation”
 Case study D: “Developing a post – disaster joint advocacy strategy in Bangladesh”
 Discussion #5: “Collaboration – who pays for it; who should do it?”
 Case study E: “Translating the Good Enough Guide into Bangla”
 Discussion #6: “Emergencies & Development – external environments and partnering”
 Case study F: “Chaos to collaboration – experience with a rapid assessment in Uganda”
 Discussion #7: “Partnering – hints and tips from practitioners”
 Discussion #8: “Starting your own collaboration”

If you want to know more about the ECB Project visit For more on World
Vision’s involvement in the ECB Project contact Wynn Flaten at

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the
views or official position of World Vision.


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