Development programmes and the challenges of partnershipMuch has been said and written about partnerships in development initiatives , between government, civil society and business. There is space to enhance such initiatives. However, experience shows that many partnerships are not thought through carefully. Partners discover too late that they do not all share a common vision regarding roles and deliverables.
Entering into partnerships
In most tendering processes, companies are encouraged to
enter into partnerships. The argument is that the client can access a broader
range of expertise and services.
However, people from different sectors have different perspectives.
Private sector companies judge performance by time and money spent in delivery.
People from the development sector use these measures but alongside, local
participation, sustainability and so on. These are not merely questions of
style or surface: they are fundamental.
Some companies that enter into partnership are either an
emerging empowerment or new company, or well-established mostly white-owned
firms. In the development arena one encounters a scenario where engineering
firms want to collaborate with an emerging black company to maximise PDI scores.
(PDI scores are the points given to 'previously disadvantaged individual'
status by government departments and tender boards.)
Unfortunately, however, in many cases companies such as these
have difficulty in accepting a slower, uneven and more developmental approach.
These issues may be discussed while tender documents are being prepared, and
all sides may claim to be fully committed to empowerment. Once implementation
begins, however, many partnerships begin to struggle.
Faced with what amount to ideological differences - not merely
questions of style, as often suggested - partners suddenly find themselves
in a legalistic relationship, governed by Terms of Reference which become
guiding principles. Budgetary concerns, if not absolutely clear beforehand,
can become the central issue.
One side of the partnership expects the key concern to be
delivery within deadlines and budget, regardless of the extent to which communities
are on board. They voice concerns about foot-dragging and an over-concentration
on consultation. The other side points out that consultation is critical to
sustainability, and that delivering within time and budget is irrelevant if
the assets are left to disintegrate because the community does not feel part
of the project. Both are right, and the challenge is to find a balance of
both views within a single partnership.