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Civil Society Partnership Review: weekly focus on effective relationships and engagement

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Africa, Asia, Development Debates, Other

We’re into the fifth and final week of online engagement with you. We’re focusing on effective relationships and engagement, and how we can work together to deliver the SDG pledge to leave no one behind and to reach the furthest behind first. As this is our final week of online engagement around the five lines of enquiry, we’d also like to hear your big ideas on what DFID could do to make a real impact on civil society development. If you were in our shoes, what would you do, what would you change and how would you do it.

I hope you would agree with me, effective development is based on strong partnerships with civil society. Without an effective partnership model, from donor through to the individual or their community, development just doesn’t work. But is there anything we can do together to make this partnership more complementary, efficient and effective? How can we do this together, in a way that maximises the value that DFID and CSOs add? Should we take a more neutral view on the ‘status’ (northern/southern, international/national etc.) of a CSO? Should we focus more on the level of that CSO’s integration into the community they’re working in and with as a measure of how successful they may be? Give us your thoughts.

Leave no one behind

I think we’d all agree with the sentiment, we need to ensure development benefits all. How can CSOs support the delivery of this pledge, and what could DFID do differently or more of to enable this? Are there incentives we can create to ensure no one is left behind, and that this approach is mainstreamed into CSO programmes/policies? How do you think learning and innovations are best shared from approaches that truly reach the furthest behind first? How can DFID best support CSOs to ensure excluded groups have a voice? Let us know in the comment section below.

Comment, share and give us your thoughts

We’d love to see your responses and ideas around these questions. Feel free to respond to other comments whether expressing agreement or an alternative view. Take the survey for this line of enquiry, which will close on 18 September. Make sure you also take the third survey, which closes at the end of this week.

If you’d like to know more about the review check out our webpage, follow @DFID_Inclusive on Twitter and use #DFIDCSPR to get involved. You can also participate in the DFID and Bond co-hosted Twitterchat this Thursday from 13.00 and follow Matt on Twitter.

We won't be able to offer personal responses to each and every comment, however, we can promise they will be read and considered during the review. Please do not submit written submissions concerning the Lines of Enquiry to the review team, as we are unable to commit to reviewing these. For this reason, it is essential to engage with our blogs and surveys embedded in them.

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  1. Comment by Mousumi Saikia - Islamic Relief Worldwide posted on

    We at IRW agree that effective and lasting development is based on strong partnership with civil society. In this context it is imperative for DFID and civil society partnerships to support:

    1. Fostering local ownership and sustainability – our experience has shown that whilst implementing development projects/programmes, very often once the INGO moves on, a project could decline or collapse completely without external support. It is therefore crucial to build and support the capacity of local communities, organisations and local structures with the capacity to take over projects/programmes at some stage. This has to be built into and be an integral part of all project/programmes and partnerships - need to look beyond the activities of a project/programme, to support the capacity of local organisations to be sufficiently strong to continue the benefits and implement similar projects and activities on an ongoing basis. It is important for DFID to support this as the focus should be on results and long-term sustainability and to empower civil society to participate in development and to take up democratic ownerships for lasting effective results.

    2. Civil society involvement in policy formulation and implementation: Whilst there is a strong theoretical support in favour of civil society political participation/participatory democracy - stating the right to be active in policy processes; but the reality is that the idea of public participation is supported as long as it does not endanger the position of political elite. This of course varies from country to country and context. The role of civil society in policy formulation and implementation or in the entire policy process is extremely important in the changed context of governance and development. Civil society should act as the positive connections among citizen, government and the non-government actors including the development partners. Specifically in the case of IRW, at a global and country level we continue to have a positive and strategic relationship with DFID and share many commonalities on various topics of international development. We have an ongoing PPA with the DFID and have built effective relationships with the DFID PPA Manager. However this partnership has revealed that this relationship is limited to specific departments within the DFID, there is little knowledge of IRW’s work or consultation outside of DFID’s Inclusive Society Department e.g. although funding IRW’s PPA work on faith and conflict, DFID’s Research and Evidence Division did not draw on IRW when planning their Pilot Religion and Conflict Course. DFID's partnership with civil society should cover the broad spectrum of relationships and not be limited or specific.

    3. Partnership between DFID and CSOs must contain an agreed and explicit commitment that no development targets will be considered met unless met for all groups. In addition, it will be useful to explicitly focus on equity. Often in our assessment of the ‘value’ of our development programmes and policies, equity is usually side-lined in favour of the other E's . Use of ‘interim equity targets’ and ‘stepping stone targets’ are some practical solutions to spurring equitable progress. Such targets would embed a commitment to social inclusion and equity across the social, economic and environmental goals and help to translate this commitment into concrete action. DFID needs to build a strategic framework and incentivise CSOs by providing support to explicitly target gap reduction, sustainable development and to take action to reduce inequalities between advantaged and disadvantaged groups as part of an overall strategy of poverty eradication. This would mean setting standalone goals to achieve gender equality, disability and age inclusion; ensure open, inclusive and accountable governance; targets to reduce income inequality and relative poverty; implement policies that reduce inequalities; mechanisms to monitor equitable progress through disaggregated data - data disaggregation at the minimum by age, ethnicity, gender, geography, disability and, socioeconomic group to improve understanding of which groups are being left behind and to bolster accountability. DFID could do more to encourage sharing of examples, lessons and case studies from where progress has been uneven across advantaged and disadvantaged groups and examples of success where progress has been more equitable and inclusive.

    With regards to the SDGs; the setting of the SDGs raises two fundamental questions – first, who will turn these goals into action and then into results; secondly, who will ensure transparency and measure progress. In truth, whilst the governments of the participating countries will be the signatory of the SDGs, it will be civil society that will carry the onus of realising the SDGs. Apart from being consulted on the setting of the SDGs, the civil society has so far only been marginally engaged in discussions on measurement, monitoring and implementation of the SDGs. Governments on their own cannot implement the SDGs. The DFID and the international development community needs to ensure that civil society voice/message is not lost and to include them in setting performance metrics, supporting implementation and tracking results, along with the appropriate support at country level. DFID also needs to engage with national governments it has agreements with to: ensure that there is an enabling environment for civil society and that restrictions on civil society are removed; the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation is upheld. This could possibly be factored into bi-lateral agreements and other partnerships.

  2. Comment by Duncan Green posted on

    Thanks Matt
    four quick responses:
    1. Beware parallel systems: yes civil society organizations can play a crucial role in leaving no-one behind, but in the vast majority of cases, they are no substitute for an effective, accountable state. CS policies and funding should aim to strengthen states, rather than undermine them through, for example, merely encouraging parallel service delivery with no idea how to transfer services to the state as an exit strategy.
    2. In the same vein, civil society plays a major role in the dialogue between citizens and states, constructing the social contract etc. There is a lot of pressure from dozens of developing country governments to 'put CSOs back in their box' as simple service deliverers. That will not help good governance - DFID and INGOs can play a valuable role in defending and expanding civil society space.
    3. Beware big bucks: as Masooda Bano has shown in Pakistan, chucking large amounts of $ at CSOs can badly damage their credibility and legitimacy. $10k can be a huge help, $10m can destroy - despite the pressures to disburse aid in large quantities, DFID needs to find ways to break down CS funding into small, agile chunks
    4. Civil Society is (much) bigger than formal CSOs: we need to avoid constructing an institutionally impoverished mental map of 'states; and 'CSOs': many of the most important islands of the social capital in the lives of poor people are not classic CSOs, but faith organizations, traditional leadership structures, informal savings and loan groups, funeral societies, cultural groups or (increasingly) online communities.

    Hope this helps, and big thanks to DFID for the review
    Duncan Green

  3. Comment by Mark Nowottny, Policy and Practice Director, Restless Development posted on

    Thanks for the important set of questions this week on how DFID relates to and engages CSOs. At the risk of a long, corporate, answer, here are four points I'd love to throw into the mix from our experience at Restless Development:-

    1. Complementarity between DFID and its partner CSOs is key.

    As a DFID Programme Partnership Arrangement (PPA) holder in a consortium with War Child UK and Youth Business International, we’ve done what we can at Restless Development to act as a strategic and technical partner for DFID on everything to do with youth. From facilitating youth input into the High Level Panel in 2013 through to our work with DFID and the Secretary of State over the past few months to advise on how DFID can prioritise youth, we think this kind of partnership brings enormous additionality both to DFID and to us and our consortium. Our partnership with DFID to put together this Saturday’s first ever Youth Summit is illustration of the kind of traction a DFID-CSO partnership can achieve.

    2. Clarity is important on where strategic and technical partnerships end and where funding partnerships begin.

    The Secretary of State rightly called in a recent speech for the British development sector to spend less time lobbying DFID and more working in partnership on shared goals. By providing clarity on the range of partnerships it will have with CSOs - and striking deeper-rooted, open, technical partnerships across its policy and programming - DFID can make sure it encourages collaboration and avoids competition within civil society.

    3. We’d certainly welcome more emphasis and metrics on CSOs’ connectivity with people and with communities.

    We think working at the heart of communities, at the heart of poverty, and with and through young people with agency is key to our success. It’s also critical to CSOs’ legitimacy and relevance - research in recent years (e.g. see for example CIVICUS' 2011 Civil Society Index summary report) has highlighted the growing disconnect between many CSOs and their constituencies. DFID’s leadership to incentivise civil society to stay rooted with citizen action over log frames could therefore be deeply important for the long term future of a robust civil society.

    4. How can DFID support and incentivise civil society to “reach the furthest behind”?

    At Restless Development, we’ve consistently called on DFID to apply a “youth lens” across its policymaking and programming. As the Inclusive Societies team at DFID consider integrated approaches to different marginalised groups - disability, gender, youth - we think that consistently calling for reporting and data on the impact of programmes on young people is an important step to take. DFID can lead the way here by piloting and rolling out full data disaggregation in its own reporting, looking at change for marginalised groups of younger and older people by breaking down age groups into five year brackets. We’d even go one further, and call on DFID to be brave and innovative in its approach, beyond simply adding to CSO partners’ reporting requirements. It could, for example, incentivise CSOs to involve young people (or other groups) actively in their own monitoring, evaluation, data gathering and governance.

    5. The “furthest behind” could actually be your biggest asset to achieve the SDGs.

    We don’t think young people, despite the exclusion they often face, are “the furthest behind” or even just the “objects” of the new SDGs - we think they’re the leaders and the group that could make or break the success of the Goals. Ban Ki Moon, who called youth the “torchbearers for sustainable development” in his Synthesis Report to member states, and Justine Greening, who called them “agents and advocates for change” in a recent speech, seem to agree. Working with and through marginalised groups and unlocking their agency is key - and we think DFID could incentivise this further. If we’re to achieve the SDGs, we’ll need to rely on the agency of young people rather than treating the mantra of “leave no one behind” simply as a dry, technocratic target.

    I hope this helps.

  4. Comment by Lizzy Whitehead - Practical Action posted on

    To make partnerships between CSOs and DFID more complementary and effective, why not host regular CSO networking events (for any CSO – British or national) at DFID country offices so that you can start to break down barriers and build transparent, meaningful relationships. We appreciate the Early Market Engagement type events but why not open up the dialogue and see us as partners, not just service delivery agents? We have a lot of knowledge we can share e.g. on local political economy, which your advisors rarely get to appreciate. Open your doors and welcome open conversations around our common agendas.

    To maximize value you should look for sustainable solutions which deliver results AND build capacity. If you’re driven by results only then you’ll end up financing the big boys (massive private sector service delivery agents). If you want cost effective, long term results then perhaps a more localized solution, involving local CSO capacity building (with technical support tailing off once they are up to speed) would give you better value for money.

    In your procurement, is there a way of considering CSO involvement more widely? Could you work towards a mandatory CSO clause in new contracts which seeks to involve and strengthen national and local CSOs as part of the process?

    Most of us are doing very well in ensuring excluded groups have a voice and reaching the furthest behind, perhaps there are opportunities to use this intelligence as DFID writes country business plans and new business cases. Engage with us as you draft these, we can help provide the context.

    • Replies to Lizzy Whitehead - Practical Action>

      Comment by Dr Monika Kruesmann, Think Global posted on

      First of all, many thanks and congratulations to DFID for opening up this review process, and for raising so many interesting and important questions. It’s been great to share our thoughts with others, and even greater to hear others’ thoughts in return.

      As this is the last week, we have been particularly struck by DFID’s invitation to offer a last ‘big idea’. The temptation in these circumstances is often to go for something really radical and even outlandish; it’s the one time when one can say “I know it’s crazy, but what about…”

      When it comes down to it, though, I think what we really care about here at Think Global, and what we think will make the most difference, is to try and make this idea of ‘partnership’ just that. Not a relationship of giving and receiving; not a relationship of instructor and learner; not a relationship of advocate and decision-maker (or ‘decider’ in that memorable phrase from George W.). A relationship of equals, where we complement and collaborate on a level basis.

      In terms of what that means in practice, I can’t really say it better than Lizzy Whitehead at Practical Action: regular, structured and supported networking, that aims to avoid duplication, support high quality and insightful conversation, and connects those of us working in the field at every level (including DFID), would be a welcome start.

      Equal partnership doesn’t mean ignoring the reality of funding imperatives. We know that DFID has money, and often, we don’t (not as much as we need, anyway). That's ok; it's how the system works. But as long as funding provision is restricted to a limited, short-term, project and contract-oriented pattern, the relationship that goes with that will struggle to remain balanced. A funding structure with more balance between projects and grants could go a long way to supporting the continuity, assurance, and equality that a true partnership requires.

      We’ve really enjoyed the chance to share these thoughts, and are looking forward to the next stages of this important process!

  5. Comment by Claire Thomas - Minority Rights Group posted on

    Thank you to DFID, and Matthew, for this opportunity to discuss donor-civil society collaboration – especially in such innovative ways! As an organisation that does not currently receive DFID funding, we at Minority Rights Group are particularly keen to share some of our thoughts about how DFID and civil society can work together to ensure that development reaches the most marginalised communities. This is informed by our work with minority groups in over 60 countries.

    It is clear to us that DFID’s commitment to leave no one behind is unfortunately not matched by all governments. The wider acceptance of this pledge is still often limited (in practice, if not in discussion at the UN in New York) to ’those whom we care about’, excluding ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, LGBT communities, sex workers and so on. It is clear that a concerted effort is needed over the coming months and years to ensure that the needs of the most marginalised communities are being met through all development efforts – particularly in the context of the SDGs. This is an example of an area where we feel greater collaboration by DFID and CSOs could achieve a huge amount.

    DFID and civil society need to work together to ensure all governments collect fully-disaggregated data (and to debunk arguments for not doing so). Accurate statistical data is critical in designing and monitoring interventions that actually have an impact on the lives of the most marginalised. CSOs can help DFID with this by gathering information on the ground about people who are being reached and those who are not. DFID could actively call for examples of policies and decisions that continue to exclude and marginalise and do not at least start to reach those who are currently furthest behind.

    Among the development community in the UK, most organisations are already mainstreaming those who are most excluded into their work. If DFID and CSOs want to have a major impact, what is needed now is to reverse state budget allocation decisions and policies that mean that the teacher/pupil ratio at pre-primary level for the Turkana minority in Kenya is 1:104, compared with the national average of 1:28. Or that mean that only 38% of Dalit women in India have access to adequate sanitation and water, compared to an estimated 60% of non-Dalit women.

    The development community needs to develop a very sophisticated understanding of how discrimination and marginalisation create spirals of exclusion that have persisted across generations. We should not underestimate the structures of power and priviledge that will seek to maintain the status quo. Racism, discrimination and exclusion are active forces that privilege some groups, and disempower others. In the worst cases, communities are not left out because they are invisible, they are left out because they are hated. Different communities experience marginalisation in different ways and the social dynamics involved and context vary hugely. For example, in our case, marginalisation of ethnic, religious and linguistic communities is very closely linked to grievance and conflict.

    We calculated that in 70% of the world’s internal conflicts ethnicity is, at least in part, a conflict driver. And of course, conflict is one of the most significant challenges for development. DFID and CSOs could share their experience in terms what works in terms of building understanding and respect between different sections of society, and encourage more of this work. MRG has been instrumental in exploring using the Arts to challenge prejudice (e.g. from Street Theatre against Racism to arts-based participatory consultations) and DFID could usefully set up forums to explore similar innovatory methods.

    Partnering with CSOs by holding regular and frank meetings with those who work closely with the different marginalised groups could help all of us to navigate this highly contested, political and diverse agenda. DFID could collect good practice examples of both CSO and state practices that are making a real difference for the whole range of these communities and publicise them. And of course DFID can target support for southern-based advocacy by those from marginalised communities and groups to ensure that they begin to occupy the political space (nationally but also internationally) and make their needs, concerns and claims to equality and development heard.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to contribute, and we look forward to continuing this discussion.

  6. Comment by Laurie Lee posted on

    I want to respond to a specific point, about leaving no-one behind. There is a strong trend in development assistance away from middle income countries where a large number of poor people live. DFID has drastically reduced its programme in India, for example, which has the largest number of poor people of any country in the world.
    The theory goes that countries like India, Brazil and South Africa have the resources to end poverty themselves now, and that what is required is domestic redistribution and more inclusive growth. Leaving no-one behind in these countries therefore depends a lot on the priority which their governments do or do not give to reducing poverty.
    In some so-called developmental states like China, Ethiopia and Rwanda, the government does this and each of these countries have seen significant progress in reducing poverty in the last 20 years. They have other faults.
    In most democracies, whether the government prioritises poor people depend on whether political pressure is exerted on the government to do so. Where will this pressure come from? Will it come from the private sector? Some companies are far-sighted enough to see the risks of extreme inequality. But not all companies are like this – certainly not enough to leave it to them. So there’s surely a major role for civil society to champion and campaign for the rights of poor and vulnerable people.
    First and foremost this means local civil society. They are best placed both to understand the needs and promote the voices of poor people in their own country. International NGOs in many countries would be seen as lacking local political legitimacy. But there are times when the support of international civil society is requested. Sometimes, the space for local civil society will be so limited in a country, or the government may be so unresponsive, that international pressure really is needed to put the needs of the poorest people on the political agenda.
    This could come from direct campaigning by international NGOs towards developing country governments. At least as likely, it will come from campaigning by international NGOs towards other governments, or international institutions, to in turn put pressure on countries to live up to the international commitments on poverty, rights and justice that they have made.
    But even more significantly, there’s a role for international NGOs in addressing the bigger picture – because some of the causes of poverty in developing countries don’t actually start in those countries. Climate change caused by industrialised countries is one example. Trade barriers is another. Tax avoidance is a third. There are many others. In this case, a local NGO in a developing country may well feel that it needs allies in other countries in order to achieve its goals for poor people in its own country. International NGOs play this role. I think they will continue to do so and this may grow into one of the main roles for international NGOs in the future.
    I think that it would therefore support DFID's objective to see middle income countries use their own resources more effectively to reduce poverty, for DFID to support civil society in those countries and international civil society working with local civil society in those countries, to ensure that poor people have an organised political voice in these countries.

  7. Comment by Michael O'Donnell, Bond posted on

    Thanks for these questions. Linking the issues of "leave no-one behind" with partnerships and collaboration (discussed in line of enquiry 3), I think we need different mental models of how civil society can be funded and supported to enable effective working.

    In a previous role, I brainstormed with my team and we listed I think 17 different issues that we were expected to be able to "mainstream" or address in our projects. They were all important issues (gender, environment, conflict sensitivity, disability, VFM...), but it was never realistic to expect any except the biggest NGOs to have or develop the knowledge and expertise in all those areas to address them effectively. At the same time, we have specialised organisations who have great expertise in single issues.

    It is vital that donor funding better incentivises partnerships and collaboration between organisations with different specialisations. It needs to be easier for an organisation to bring in a disability-focused or minority-rights focused organisation's expertise rather than trying to build that in-house. A common donor practice of simply adding another section to a proposal format or reporting template to incentivise greater attention to such issues doesn't suffice: as often as not, that approach just promotes superficial references. And this is understandable when different donors funding the same organisation have different particular interests, and indeed these can change frequently within a single donor.

    Donors such as DFID can facilitate more agile and flexible combinations of civil society actors (and others) to work collectively through practical things like
    - direct support to convening and brokering of relationships;
    - increasing lead times for proposal development;
    - including an inception period for partnership-building in projects;
    - acknowledging the value of funding for relationship-building;
    - and providing strategic funding to specialised organisations to provide services and support to others.

  8. Comment by Tom Bigg posted on

    Thanks for the ideas and questions posed in the blog and the very thoughtful responses. A few inter-related reflections on the notion of civil society partnerships and what they can contribute to achieving development outcomes:

    First, it’s of huge significance who sets the agenda and how the partners are accountable to one another. Especially in collaborations involving Northern and Southern organisations the power imbalance can often go unacknowledged, and lead to rhetoric about the nature of the relationship which isn’t borne out by reality. Matthew asks ‘is there anything we can do together to make this partnership more complementary, efficient and effective?’ which begs the question of how these criteria are defined and assessed. The Ford Foundation has signalled a commitment to provide support for organisational development, shifting from project-focused funding. It’s worth reading the piece by their President Darren Walker in full as it is directly relevant for this discussion:

    “In order to better resource civil society - and in order to be better resources for civil society - we all need to change our behaviours. Large development agencies need to rethink how they invest, and in whom they invest. Foundations and philanthropists need to rethink how we allocate resources. CSOs need to advocate for general support, and articulate why their organisation deserves that general support instead of project support. And, most importantly, we need to recommit ourselves to building organisations in a different, more durable way.” (see here:

    Second, actively support the capacity of CSOs to adapt to change and respond to opportunity. If partnerships carry with them a restrictive framework that doesn’t reward innovation and is inflexible and bureaucratic this isn’t going to help those organisations to challenge and change the status quo. Space to innovate and anticipate change entails an acceptance of experimentation and failure – too often, collaboration between CSOs and governments veer towards the safe and mainstream because the costs of failure are too high.

    Third, be extremely careful in the imposition of ‘new’ priorities which are not rooted in the experience and strategic priorities of Southern partners. The rapidity with which issues and working modalities are taken up, modified and dropped by international agencies is often noted by Southern organisations. If this is not kept in balance it can undermine the equality in agenda setting and mutual accountability which is essential for lasting and effective partnerships, as noted above. IIED is currently conducting a piece of work to assess how a broad range of developing country organisations address disruption and uncertainty in their work. A representative from a pastoralist organisation working in the Sahel commented that:

    “From pastoralist perspectives, a large proportion of ‘development’ activities are the main sources of disruption for them … What development often does is to replace the problems that you can solve with the problems that they can solve, and then they leave … The language now is about putting yourselves in the shoes of the donors. This has been a real reversal from the trends in the 70s and 80s emphasising consulting local groups and trying to understand their perspectives and the internal logic of how they see problems and what solutions they see.” (draft report, IIED – to be published later this year)

    It is vital that these kinds of perspectives are placed at the centre of our reflections on a future model for partnerships with CSOs. They challenge us to focus more on how Northern organisations can respond to the agendas and priorities of our Southern partners, and avoid undermining their accountability to their communities and stakeholders.

  9. Comment by Juliet Milgate, Sightsavers posted on

    A more effective relationship with CSOs

    Since the development of our current strategy in 2009, Sightsavers has invested heavily in the development of strategic alliances, to go alongside our community and national level partnerships. Our strategy is based on the understanding that while we can add value to the development themes that we work in, and the broader development sector, our strategic aims (of universal access to eye health within the health system, the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases, and the full inclusion of people with disabilities) will never be met by Sightsavers alone. This has driven us to seek core relationships with agencies both within our development sectors, and beyond, and to question where we can add best value. We consider our relationship with DFID to be one of the more effective of these strategic level relationships. The fundamental rationale for this is that, although we are obviously of a different scale, each recognises that there is an added value in working with the other in specific areas, to the delivery of our own strategies.

    This seems to us to be at the heart of what makes effective partnerships: co-interest, rather than a purely resource-driven relationship. It is where DFID and Sightsavers have goals in common that our relationship has been the most effective. This of course includes some extent of influencing each other’s goals, at least in areas where interests overlap – and that has always been our experience when constructively engaging in specific areas of policy development such as NTD programming, health systems strengthening and the inclusion of people with disabilities.

    We think it’s vital that funding relationships are established alongside these areas of mutual policy interest, for them to be of greatest value. This works at many levels, from multilateral or thematic policy setting, to the achievement of specific goals within countries. This provides a framework for civil society partnerships with DFID at various levels, from country office to global policy teams. It also provides the greatest incentive for one area where DFID can add huge value to the global development sector, in the analysis and sharing of the learning generated in its partnerships with civil society. The PPA learning groups have been a key example of the opportunities presented by these partnerships, but we believe DFID can go further than this, through ensuring that future partnerships have a clear focus on the generation and dissemination of evidence. This will require partnering with either agencies, or coalitions of agencies, which have the ability not only to implement projects, but also to generate good quality learning from within the partnership and not just from funded external evaluations. Ideally, given the global reach, DFID would be able to engage directly in these learning ventures and use that learning in policy evolution.

    At the same time, we recognise that DFID is taking steps to engage a wider, and more complex, range of organisations and constituencies – for example in its work on the Disability Framework, where DFID has actively sought to engage disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in its development. This is important to the continuing growth of new, high quality partnerships, in areas of strategic interest. The challenge is in making this engagement systematic across all DFID’s policy and programme dialogue and consultation.

    In terms of addressing these concerns, a World Bank review of civil society engagement put forward a series of recommendations to strengthen civil society engagement with the Bank . These include sharing more knowledge at country level about policy processes, so that CSOs understand these processes in more detail; hosting workshops about DFID; publishing more data to enable CSOs to hold them to account; and increasing public access to information about policy development earlier in the process.

    Leaving no one behind

    A core part of Sightsavers’ strategic level theory of change is that governments are responsible for the delivery of basic services to all citizens. Given our strategic mandate, our specific interests focus on the inclusion of people with disabilities in all development sectors, and gender equality in access to the health services that we support (two thirds of those with visual impairment are women, 80% of this is avoidable and women are disproportionately affected by most neglected tropical diseases). We are very aware that most governments are absolutely committed to the equitable delivery of good quality services to their citizens. However, in resource constrained environments, perceived additional costs, geographic location, political power of groups and other factors often constrain the ability to deliver on these commitments. We believe that part of the role of Sightsavers is to work with government and other partners to develop approaches that ensure delivery of services to all, with a specific focus on the groups mentioned above. This provides added value in the project areas where we work, but also more broadly in our thematic sectors.

    Given the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) focus on leaving no one behind and the theme of universality that differentiates these goals to the Millennium Development Goals, we believe the development of these models for access by the most marginalised are critical. In particular, the development of know-how and evidence of what works is most critical and should be an area of specific DFID policy focus in our view. Logically, evidence in most areas of inclusion is weak (as there is not the critical mass of inclusive programmes), but what there is suggests that very similar approaches to improving equity of access, also improve quality of outcomes – through, for example, a focus on the needs of individual or groups of children in education programmes, or a patient-centred approach to health care provision.

    Similarly to our view on the measurement of progress of inclusion under the SDGs, where we feel a mix of specific proxy indicators should be married with more generic data disaggregation, Sightsavers believes a combined approach of specific interventions targeted at specific marginalised groups should be merged with supporting learning from these to develop generic common approaches that can be mainstreamed into non-targeted universal programmes.

    We believe that this is also an area where DFID could focus future programme support, and that while in the short term this means making additional investments, it will place DFID in a central position in meeting the aspirations of the SDGs for universality, greater equity and leaving no one behind.

  10. Comment by Michel Gary, Transparency International posted on

    The SDGs rest on the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’. This approach is integral to how the goals will be followed-up, delivered and reviewed (par. 72, 74) and requires a reframing of the role of civil society and civil society organisations.

    Individuals, from traditionally marginalised groups, must be at the centre of the resulting SDG policies, from their design to their implementation. Getting these different actors involved will require the collective action of a range of traditional and non-traditional actors. Rather than look at who the actors are and their intermediaries, it is important to focus on whether they are able to fulfil this commitment of the SDGs and how they are able to work together. This means moving beyond North/South divisions and global/national/local. We must also see this effort to “leave no one behind” without developed/developing country divisions. The critical factor is the quality of engagement and the ability to bring a broad range of previously unheard demands and voices in to the decision-making process.

    The poorest and most marginalised must be the owners of the SDG agenda. This will trigger more effective and accountable decisions. Much previous work has been done that can help to guide us in this process and to understand potential entry points for coordinated, collective action (see the Participate Initiative: There is much cross-learning and knowledge sharing from all different types of CSOs that needs to be brought into this effort. The SDGs are a universal agenda for all countries to fulfil and it will take each one of us to achieve it.

    From Transparency International, we have had successful experiences of working with marginal groups to provide them with information on their rights to key public services and to create productive forums for them to dialogue with their policy makers to create a positive cycle of government actions that respond to their demands. For example, see the work done in Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia with local marginalized groups to empower their voice to demand change:

    Regarding the role of DFID, in order to make sure that no one is left behind, more attention could be paid to how CSOs are rooted in their contexts/ communities to ensure that their legitimacy is based locally (at least for those CSOs who claim to be coming from the grassroots as opposed to expertise-type CSOs). The issue of local level partnerships between CSOs and public administration/ politicians at local/ municipal level is also important. This is where inclusion has to take place and too often DFID funds CSOs to do social accountability work and the local government to do service delivery/capacity building work, which is not connected. Finally, we would think that DFID needs to support civil society when it is under threat and protect civil society space.

  11. Comment by Aneeta Williams, War Child UK posted on

    War Child UK has a 20-year history of working with children involved in armed conflict. We currently work in partnership with CSOs and state departments in DRC, CAR, Afghanistan, Jordan and Iraq. When building partnerships based on mutual trust and respect with CSOs, who understand the local context, we are able to provide them technical knowledge to enable them to align their strategies and activities in accordance to the national strategies and policies.

    It is however extremely challenging to adopt a proper and meaningful partnership with short-term funding. It is often the case that donors and states “out-source” their roles and responsibilities and partnerships with INGOs/CSOs are reduced to mere “service delivery” contracts. This approach was clearly evidences in contexts such as Haiti. Local CSOs which formerly had a strong core, particularly around the issues of Gender and relied heavily on volunteerism and the goodwill of public figures, were compelled post-2010 earthquake to modify their working style and culture as they competed with newer players for large donor-funded grants, thereby losing their identity and leaving their long-term goals.

    DFID has the choice to support development and humanitarian programmes and in order to be consistent, we would propose that meaningful partnerships be secured by mid to long-term common vision, approaches and funding in which UK-based INGOs will be in a position to support and strengthen the governance and capacity of local CSOs, underpinned by the key humanitarian standards including "Do no harm". We propose DFID invest more in UK-based INGOs (following the example of the Canadian International Development Authority) and prioritise programmatic interventions that include child protection and education in emergencies. The allocation of flexible funding is vital for sustainable interventions to measure significant impact in children’s lives caught in humanitarian settings.

  12. Comment by Charlotte Timson, Traidcraft posted on

    From over 30 years’ experience of trading and working with small enterprises and farmers operating in local, national and international markets, our key points are:

    Support the voice of those furthest behind: This is especially important in the context of the increasing pace of globalisation, bringing both opportunity and challenge, but where the benefits and risks involved are not shared equally by all; indeed where we are seeing the poorest and most vulnerable fall even further behind. Local, sometimes informally organised, CSOs (and small enterprises) are often closest to poor and marginalised communities and can best and most directly represent their voice. However, it tends to be the larger INGOs (and businesses) managing large volumes of donor funds, that are more regularly and directly engaged in discussions with DFID about development priorities, policies and programmes, perhaps because this is seen as simpler and quicker. With effective engagement in mind, we encourage DFID to really listen to smaller specialist CSOs and businesses in the UK and in-country. The DFID country offices have a key role to play in convening forums that engage relevant actors at all levels. DFID can also make a real difference by supporting CSO advocacy work - in-country and internationally - to ensure the voices of the most marginalised are heard by those with power. DFID can also use its influence with governments to protect and open up civil society space.

    Promoting diverse and genuinely equal partnerships requires tackling issues of power: It is important to recognise the power relationships between different actors, be they civil society, private sector or public actors. Sensitive and nuanced approaches are needed, best provided by local actors who understand the dynamics. Traidcraft’s experience demonstrates that support to small (often informal) enterprises and small scale farmers can transform the lives of poor women and men and can help entire communities to flourish. While these small enterprises hold enormous potential to increase employment and reduce poverty, they are often powerless and invisible (sometimes deliberately overlooked) within their supply chains and operating environment. Within the civil society sector, power is also an issue that needs explicit attention and positive action. CSOs working the closest to those further behind can also often appear invisible and unheard by donors and INGOs that hold considerable political and financial power. When talking about both private sector and civil society involvement, we encourage DFID to embrace the diversity that there is but also to acknowledge the power dynamics that play out within these sectors, to take more of a “bottom-up” approach by really listening to the voice of the most powerless, and to promote and reward genuine equality within partnerships.

    Built-in flexibility: This point is often made and we also believe that there needs to be more room for movement within DFID’s partnership with CSOs, allowing the scope for change and adaptation along the way, for more negotiation on agreed plans and milestones, for greater coverage of CSO core costs. We also want to see more local partners taking a lead on project/programme management and implementation, with INGOs playing a facilitative, convening, knowledge-sharing role. However, it can be difficult for our local partners to even consider taking a leading role because they struggle to meet donor compliance and accountability requirements. A more flexible and lighter touch approach is needed, along with appropriate levels of investment in capacity building CSOs.

  13. Comment by Polly Meeks, ADD International posted on

    ADD International supports the comments on ‘leaving no-one behind’ made by Sightsavers and others, and particularly agrees with observations on the following themes:

    1. Incentive setting

    We strongly agree with others’ comments that data disaggregation by disability, as well as by other factors of exclusion, would create a strong incentive for CSOs to mainstream ‘leave no-one behind’ into their policies and practice. Without disability disaggregation, there is a risk that other pressures will create a perverse incentive to work with those who are easiest to reach. Such pressures might include narrowly defined targets on value for money (using a definition that does not allow adequately for equity considerations), or results-based payment mechanisms (see Bond’s 2014 report on payment by results).

    If DFID is funding CSO projects, the duration of funding also influences what is possible in terms of leaving no-one behind. As DFID recognises, changes in the social norms that drive exclusion take time to achieve: it is important that project timescales allow for this – and in particular, as IRW says above, for building local capacity to sustain and amplify change in the long-term.

    2. Sharing learning

    We support colleagues’ comments that sharing learning on equity and inclusion should be a focus for DFID. In particular, we agree with Michael O’Donnell’s recommendation that DFID should encourage partnerships between organisations with different specialisations.

    3. Voice and participation of marginalised groups

    We strongly agree that it is essential, throughout DFID’s programme cycle, to include the perspectives of people experiencing marginalisation – particularly those who face intersecting exclusion, such as women with disabilities. We agree with Sightsavers that DFID’s work with disabled people’s organisations has been a positive step in this regard, and hope to see this engagement with DPOs and other groups spreading across DFID’s portfolio.

  14. Comment by Brian Pratt posted on

    Relationships . Dr Brian Pratt Freelance consultant formerly Director INTRAC

    1) Sadly we do not know enough about what happens when donors leave . There are insufficient evaluations post projects and programmes . There are many countries where most aid agencies have now left ( NGOs and official donors ). Any review of civil society funding should look more to the past if they are to understand the issues of sustainability . I have been involved in two exercises which are enlightening . The first, with INTRAC & Pria India we carried out a series of workshops to explore the immediate effects of the withdrawal of many donor agencies when India hit mid income status . We found that many CSOs were completely caught unaware , and unprepared , which also reflected poor preparation by their donors, some were clearly ready to give up and close down . Others limped along with small amounts of money from a few NGO donors who had access to unrestricted funds ( church based ones tended to do better than other NGO donors who tended to be more dependent on official back donors ). Other local groups turned to Indian government funding for sub contracted government programmes. This led many of them into the cycle of corruption ( payments to civil servants in order to receive grants ) and a final group have turned to the local corporate sector encouraged by government rules on CSR . What is most worrying is that as many commentators note India still has a very large proportion of extremely poor people but donors have gone by the national GNP averages produced by the World bank which puts India into a mid income category .
    Secondly it takes time to develop a progressive middle class willing to fund controversial areas locally ( see for example recent attacks on INGOs working on environmental issues in India , using a nationalistic banner to criticise the INGOs . It would be a lot harder for government to use this tactic if the advocacy was locally funded . More effort needs to be taken to encourage local giving for unfashionable and controversial issues in developing countries . This in the end is the only way to ensure sustainable civil society in the longer term .
    2) The work of the Dutch group Wilde Ganzen , is also instructive as they are the only group I am aware of who have had a genuinely experimental programme of transitional funding in four now mid income countries ( India, South Africa , Brazil and Kenya which became mid income during the programme ) . Wilde Ganzen offered an intermediate agency in each country previously receiving external funding , to match on a co-funding basis funds they raised locally ( by which ever means they chose ) . Progress was made in most countries over a 5 year period as these agencies learnt the skills of fundraising . Also these intermediate agencies min turn offered similar deals to local community groups / projects , through matching local community level fundraising , this turned out to be even more successful than the national level fundraising . Very few communities failed to raise their half of the funds required for their own projects . Wilde Ganzen is about to launch a portal where local fundraising programmes can share experiences . Again this has to be the future of a sustainable local civil society .
    3) Finally it has become clear from my work on capacity building ( Recent evaluation of Dutch funding for the Ministry of foreign affairs) that external agents have often failed to clearly and explicitly set goals for capacity building for local civil society. Too much effort has gone into merely helping local agencies meet the conditionalities of grant makers rather than the development of strong local sustainable civil society organisations and movements.

  15. Comment by Kit Dorey, Stonewall posted on

    Thank you very much for opening this review and for these timely & relevant questions. We have a few observations based on our experience at Stonewall, on the topic of LGBT-inclusion in international development. LGBT people often face particular problems with economic inclusion, violence, access to justice, access to healthcare, among others, and so are of direct relevance for DFID’s funding priorities.

    These observations (broadly speaking) come under the theme of “leave no one behind”, particularly how we make this principle a reality for LGBT people worldwide. We have been heartened by DFID’s new LGBT approach and its partnership with the Institute of Development Studies, which has helped to build a lot of useful evidence. We look forward to seeing DFID build on this work, in the form of LGBT-inclusive programmes & projects.

    DFID could do a lot more to fund LGBT CSOs both directly and through intermediaries (such as trust funds, foundations or NGOs) with experience in this area. Such funding would help LGBT groups to meet gaps in service provision and change discriminatory laws, policies and practices. The CSPR is a fantastic opportunity to begin doing this properly and to “strengthen southern voices” (which is a key pillar of DFID’s new LGBT approach).

    Much of this support should be in the form of core funding, to ensure that LGBT groups are empowered to pursue their own strategies and approaches.

    On the question of CSO “status”, it is clear that criteria for organisations to be “officially registered” (present in most DFID bids) disproportionately impacts LGBT groups. In many contexts, it is illegal or prohibitively difficult for LGBT groups to achieve any kind of official recognition, and we have had numerous reports of barriers like this affecting our international partners. Could DFID consider implementing an exemption of some kind, in cases where CSOs are barred from official registration through discrimination?

    We recommend that DFID use its partnership programme to develop an LGBT-inclusive pilot, which would showcase as many of the recommendations above as possible & demonstrate the potentially transformative benefits of such an approach.

    In terms of broader programmes, DFID could do more to support non-LGBT specific civil society partners to be more LGBT-inclusive. Supporting them to apply “do no harm” principles across the board, conduct proper risk analyses for LGBT people, and explicitly identify LGBT people as a beneficiary group (where appropriate to do so) would be a great way to actualise “leave no one behind”. DFID could also support partners to adopt indicators that measure LGBT-inclusion across several thematic areas.

    In addition, DFID could adopt clear guidance in its partnership principles for CSO partners not to discriminate against LGBT people, either intentionally or indirectly.

    Thanks again for this opportunity. We at Stonewall look forward to seeing the outcome of this review and working with DFID further to help mainstream its LGBT approach. Not many NGOs or donors have engaged directly with this work before & DFID still has the opportunity to be a leader in the field. When it comes to support for LGBT groups, a little goes a long way and the value for money case would be very strong.