It is often argued that partnerships are essential for the effective delivery of ICT for development initiatives. However, all too often the term partnership is used extremely loosely to refer to any kind of relationship in which several organisations are involved. Many organisations tend to embark on partnerships without sufficiently understanding the complexities involved in their delivery, and as a ressult they reinvent the wheel and thereby fail to learn from the failures of previous partnership initiatives.
The CTO is committed to working with its members to share experiences in implementing effective multi-stakeholder ICT4D partnerships. To this end, as with other areas of our research work, we seek to share good practices in partnership implementation, and to provide training in effective partnership delivery.
Based on existing research findings, six important conclusions can be drawn about such partnerships:
- Partnerships that involve just the public and the private sectors (PPPs) are less likely to be successful than those that engage a wider diversity of organisations, and particularly civil society in multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs).
- Success of ICT4D partnerships is increased when detailed attention is paid to the local context and the involvement of the local community in partnership implementation.
- It is important for such partnerships to have clear and agreed intended development outcomes, even where constituent partners may themselves have different reasons for being involved in the partnership.
- Sustainability and scalability of the intended development intervention need to be built into partnership design at the very beginning.
- Successful partnerships are built on trust, honesty, openness, mutual understanding and respect.
- A supportive wider ICT environment needs to be in place, both in terms of policy and infrastructure, if such partnerships are to flourish and deliver effective development outcomes.
Partnership relationships are fundamentally different from contractual relationships, and organisations should carefully assess whether a contractual model might not provide better value for money before embarking on the challenges and rewards associated with implementing a multi-stakeholder partnership.
In a forthcoming publication on practical recommendations for the implementation of ICT4D partnerships, the CTO’s Secretary General, Professor Tim Unwin, highlights the importance of eight key elements that need to be in place for their successful delivery:
- A political and infrastructural environment that is conducive to the implementation of partnerships. Without this, there is little point in starting.
- Engagement of all relevant stakeholders as early as possible in the initiative.
- The involvement of a high level champion, as well as leaders of all of the entities involved.
- The identification of clear and mutually agreed objectives for the partnership at the very start.
- Consistent monitoring and evaluation of the partnership and its intended outcomes. Again, this must be done from the beginning by ensuring a baseline study exists to enable impact and outcomes to be measured effectively.
- A clear and realistic resourcing framework, whereby each partner is explicit about the resources that they are willing to make available to the partnership, as well as their expectations of the benefits of being involved in the partnership. Mechanisms must also exist for the inclusion of additional partners at stages during the process where new needs are identified.
- An ethical framework that emphasises a focus on transparency, and helps build trust within the partnership.
- A management office and/or partnership broker that will ensure the day-to-day and effective management and delivery of the partnership.
It is hoped that by following these suggestions, CTO members will be able to deliver more effective ICT4D multi-stakeholder partnerships in the interests of all stakeholders.