Building partnership trust abroad

Building partnerships can be tricky in the best of times, but bringing together partners from different cultural, ethnic or linguistic backgrounds can be a minefield of potential misunderstandings, disagreements and bruised egos.

In the book “Tapping Philanthropy for Development” edited by Lorna Michael Butler and Della E. McMillan, Mark E. Westgate offers lessons learned from the establishment of the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) program, a public-private partnership meant to address the root causes of rural poverty in Uganda.

Building a lasting partnership, Westgate wrote, means learning from the following lessons:

  • Take time to identify a core vision for the partnership that builds on partner strengths and the social capital that exists between individuals in each organization.
  • Share credit for success.
  • Anticipate accountability problems and the tools needed to navigate them as the partnership evolves.
  • Identify a way to legally and independently get the program up and running while exploring the requirements for long-term operation.
  • Work with partners to develop a harmonized system of accounting, management and personnel policies, and review this from time to time.
  • Recruit an experienced program manager to represent the lead institution’s interests and to liaise with the partners responsible for program start-up.
  • Develop management systems that link strategic planning and budget processes to deliverables from the start.
  • Build and track each partner’s capacity in the core management and accounting systems required to manage the partnership.