Learning into the future: our experience with partners
Since its January 2018 launch, the Learning Collaborative has aimed to improve collective learning about how civil society organizations (CSOs) can more effectively pursue and achieve goals related to transparency, accountability, and participation (TAP). Along with Twaweza East Africa, El Centro de Estudios para la Equidad y Gobernanza en los Sistemas de Salud (CEGSS), and the Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia), Global Integrity participated as a “learning hub,” seeking to improve learning within the Collaborative, across participants’ networks, and in the broader TAP field.
Work with the learning hubs’ partner organizations and networks (called “clusters” in the Collaborative’s lingo) was a key component of the Collaborative’s theory of change. Global Integrity used Collaborative resources to carry out activities with a variety of partners—frontline CSOs in Colombia, Kenya, and South Africa; government agencies in Mexico; and international organizations around the world—to supporti these partners in better understanding and addressing problems related to corruption and the use of public resources.
What did Global Integrity do?
As can be seen by the examples of cluster-level work noted in the box, each partnership looked different, given the nature of each organization and the context in which they are situated. (See the Learning Collaborative final report as Annex of the Collaborative report for more on what we learned and achieved alongside our partners.)
Examples of Cluster-Level Work
– In Colombia, we helped colleagues at Burotic to design and test a data platform on municipal spending in Bogota, as well as encourage CSOs and government agencies to use the platform.
– In Mexico, we partnered with organizations in Veracruz, Chihuahua, and Cozumel, working together to craft, implement, and iteratively refine strategies for engaging citizens in efforts to open and use data to improve government accountability.
– For CIVICUS and CIPE—two international organizations seeking to support learning and action on accountability issues around the world—we facilitated theory of change workshops.
– At the Open Gov Hub, we launched a Collaborative Learning Fund to help four organizations undertake short, month-long sprints through which they might learn about issues of common concern.
So, what did Global Integrity learn?
Lots! We learned how we can better tailor our services to meet our partners’ needs, as well as how, as an external “out-of-context” organization, we can more effectively support local leadership and the learning and adaptation essential for effective, sustainable governance reform. Two lessons are particularly worth highlighting:
1. We provide better support when we’re able to learn alongside our partners in the longer term.
Our cluster work in Mexico and Kenya built on existing projects in which we had been engaged for several years. This meant that we already had a decent (though still imperfect) understanding of the ways in which we could best support our partners, taking into account the contexts in which they work and the challenges they face. This enabled us to tailor the services provided to each partner so our support could best be leveraged to improve their capacity to effectively learn about, and address, the issues on which they work.
2. Our work within our cluster demonstrated that our most effective role – and perhaps that of other “out of context” organizations – is that of a critical friend, willing to listen and learn alongside local partners.
As a relative outsider, yet one that enjoys strong relationships with partners and is well-connected to the broader governance and development arenas, Global Integrity can offer insights and perspectives that local partners may not be able to bring out themselves. Our role is not to offer ready-made answers or solutions, or to act as “experts.” Rather, we’re most effective when we help partners make sense of existing evidence, apply that evidence to problems and challenges faced in their contexts, and learn as they go.
Putting these lessons into practice and figuring out how to establish longer term, formal relationships with local organizations in the Global South will be key to our ways of working in the future. We are working with potential partners in the Global South to determine what deeper strategic partnerships might look like in practice. And pursuing the role of a learning partner who accompanies frontline organizations over longer periods of time may be integral to not only Global Integrity’s evolution, but also that of other “out-of-context” organizations working in support of governance and development.
Want to discuss any of the above in more detail? We’d love to hear from you about how we can do an even better job of understanding and providing support to our partners! You can find us on Twitter @globalintegrity.