Partnerships between NGOs have become a key part of international development processes. Whilst NGOs are drawn to the concept of partnership as an expression of solidarity that goes beyond financial aid, few development concepts have been the subject of such heated debate.
Partnerships between NGOs can bring benefits based on their comparative advantages. These are in turn related to their proximity to their respective constituencies. NGOs combine their strengths and act as a link between their respective constituencies, strengthening their legitimacy. Thus, the sum of the whole partnership has the potential to be greater than the sum of the parts.
Different Types of Partnerships
All of the NGOs have a diverse range of relationships with their Southern Partners, and value that diversity. Furthermore, relationships are dynamic and change over time. Few NGOs have formal classifications of types of relationships with Partners, but recognise the diversity of partnerships based on the following:
• Funding-based differences: a funding-only relationship at one end of the spectrum and a partnership based on policy dialogue with no funding at the other end.
• Capacity-based differences: a Partner with limited capacity requiring support from the Partner; contrasted with a partnership with a strong, autonomous organization that contributes from its own experience.
• Trust-based differences: control of the Partner at one extreme and unconditional trust at the other.
Principles of Effective Partnerships
In general, there are few formalized principles for partnerships within the NGOs studied. Principles of relating to Partners tend to be part of organizational culture and values. In general, effective partnerships are based on:
• The effectiveness of the work on both sides; • The quality of the relationship; • Clarity about the purpose of the relationship.