It is important to realise that the role of CARE in a partnership often has shifted away from direct implementation. This means that the nature of responsibilities of CARE staff will change. The below checklist highlights the main responsibilities of CARE staff in a partnership, where implementation is done by partners.
- Coordination: Conduct frequent coordination meetings with partner staff
- Reporting: Review partner financial and narrative reports
- Disbursements: Ensure timely payments/disbursement due to partner
- Ensuring program quality: Provide technical assistance, on the job coaching and (refresher) training where needed
Frequent face to face meetings are important during the implementation stage. Ensure to invest in personal relationships with partner staff. Remember, having good personal relations with partners is one of the critical success factors in a partnership. Foster a climate of trust and openness, so that partners dare to speak out. Particularly in the early stages of a partnership, it may be good to jointly go over the work plan and discuss progress and challenges.
In case of multiple partners working in the same project or geographical area, it might be good to bring partners together in one meeting. Facilitate interaction among partners. Do not forget to use social media (facebook, skypegroups, whatsapp groups) when working with multiple partners. It can greatly improve information sharing and coordination.
Progress and finance reporting often present challenges with partners. While falsification and misreporting do occur, more common still are poor presentation of data, irrelevant information, a focus on positive news, and poor analysis of problems and lessons. On the other hand, CARE is often overburdening partners with information requests and reporting requirements. Tips to improve partner reporting include:
- Specify the required content and submission dates for reports in contracts.
- Provide sample formats, with guidelines on how to complete them.
- Keep formats clear, short, and easy-to-complete. Don’t ask for lots of information that will be of limited use.
- Minimise the number of reports to essential only. More reporting is not going to lead to improved programming.
- Encourage CARE and partner staff to ‘own’ report formats by developing or modifying them together.
- Discuss how partners will resource for staff to manage data and reporting.
- Plan to provide mentoring or training for partner staff, as appropriate.
- Offer hands-on assistance to make reports if needed. Helping partners to get them right the first couple of times can save a lot of pain later.
- Be clear about who receives reports, how many copies, who proofs, who approves and turnaround times. A memo can be issued to outline these.
- Hold internal review meetings on partner reports with programme and support staff present. This can help to get a holistic view of progress.
- Consider scheduling field monitoring after receiving reports, to verify data.
- Meet partners to review lessons and determine follow up plans.
- Provide partners with feedback from support and programme staff on what is good about their reports, and what can be improved.
- Funds are usually disbursed to partners in instalments. This limits financial exposure, as the use of funds is accounted for incrementally.
- The number of tranches depends on CARE’s assessment of risk-the greater the risk, the more instalments there will usually be. More installments mean more work and administration however. Reduce the number of installments where possible.
- Disbursements should depend on adequate progress and financial reports.
- The first tranche of funds is almost always disbursed on contract signing.
- Subsequent instalments are usually disbursed after a certain percentage of the last tranche is used (often 75% or 90%) and adequate reports are submitted.
- A final disbursement (often around 10% of the contract value) is withheld until submission of the final report, audit and resolution of any outstanding issues.
- Paying partners on time is one of CARE’s key obligations, yet delays are fairly common. Internal agreement on roles, documents required, sign-off authorities, and turnaround times will facilitate smooth internal processing.
- Payments to partners are usually accounted for as advances and are cleared on receipt of reports. This can lead to liability and exchange rate losses. Some COs ask donors to expense sub-grants on disbursal, or invoice for the cost of capital.
- Pre-financing by partners makes life easier for CARE, but is often not viable for partners with limited liquidity. It can be unfair to push them to do it.
See also Chapter 17 Finance.
Ensuring that partners meet standards to which CARE is committed to is a tough task. Many have limited knowledge or capacity to implement best practices for activities like distribution, and a weak grasp of issues like Sphere standards, accountability mechanisms and gender sensitive programming. Suggestions to strengthen partner capacities and ensuring program quality include:
- Foster common understanding on a programme by holding an inception meeting for CARE and partner staff to discuss standards, the objectives, activities, obstacles, programme management, etc.
- Run training sessions for partner staff at the earliest possible time. Ensure that they are relevant, concise and well targeted, and try to conduct them in the field.
- Provide tools and materials to support training. Preparing translated manuals prior to an emergency is a good practice.
- Follow up on training with field visits, meetings, or refresher courses. This will be much more effective than just one-off events.
- Consider seconding CARE staff to partners to mentor them for a defined period, or arrange for partner staff to learn by shadowing CARE operations.
- Ensure that programme monitoring covers quality and standards issues.
- Budget for partner capacity building interventions in project proposals.
- Give partners access to tools and materials such as the CET