Challenges, Risks, Lessons, and Good Practice
Risks are a natural aspect of every project.
CARE acknowledges that, as a social justice actor and agent of change, certain risks may need to be accepted. The process of risk management is about uncovering, understanding and appropriately mitigating perceived and anticipated risks to arrive at a position where risks are acceptable to CARE and to our partners.
(CI Partner Funding Agreement Policy, July 2021)
Risks in Partnerships within Fast-paced Responses
With the humanitarian sector becoming increasingly risk-averse, risk management for humanitarian partnerships is affected by the power imbalance between INGOs and national or local partners, where INGOs tend to focus on the risks of partners, rather than the risks to partners with an overwhelming focus on fiduciary risk followed by legal and compliance. This is reflected in the content of INGO partnership policies and in the positioning of partnership functions within finance and compliance teams. By transferring risk to partners and taking a punitive approach to partnerships, INGOs and donors are contributing to a vicious cycle of risk.
Limited access to unrestricted funding in CARE Country Presences is often cited as a barrier to more meaningful engagement with partners, since it creates a preference for short-term, transactional and project-focused partnership models in an effort to mitigate both reputational and financial risks.
In general practice, women’s rights organisations, women responders and other small grassroots organisations often lack or have weak organisational systems and capacity and therefore cannot always effectively meet due diligence standards, or meet them at the levels of more established organisations. Consequently, INGO partnership models are often unable to accommodate partnerships with these actors. Moreover, they may be affiliated with political, religious or ethnic groups or apply a rights-based approach which may appear to conflict with humanitarian principles.
These “high risk” factors often become barriers for partnerships with actors who have incredible potential to support CARE’s goals around gender transformation. CARE needs to have a supportive and collaborative model, which emphasises transparency, trust and capacity strengthening and accepts some level of risk.
There is a strong desire within CARE to move towards a more localised way of working and there are positive examples of this happening in practice.
 CARE International Partner Funding Agreement Policy, v. July 2021.
Summary of Good Practices
- Creating a database of vetted local partners in advance of emergencies to diversify partnerships
- Development and operationalisation of a country-level partnership strategy and dedicating a focal point to move forward the strategies and plans
- Flexibility of funding that allows more support to activities engaging the partners (e.g. access to quick emergency response funding and capacity strengthening activities)
- Provision of capacity strengthening activities to partners based on their needs
- Constant updating of country-level risk registers to help manage risks in collaboration with partners
- Engaging partners in all phases of emergency response (from proposal writing to budget planning, implementation to monitoring)
- Simplifying due diligence and compliance processes during high-risk emergencies
- Advocating with donors for budget flexibility and inclusion of overhead costs for partners
- Bringing partners to global advocacy consultations and discussion
- Setting up functional feedback and accountability mechanisms with partners
- In the Philippines, CARE established the Humanitarian Partnership Platform (HPP) adopting a decentralised model. With seven major partners working with their own network of local partners (over 30 in total), CARE acts as convenor, donor, relationship and knowledge broker, capacity builder to prepare for and respond to crises. This approach leads to increased timeliness, coverage, access and relevance of responses as well as more robust and confident partners. The HPP approach is also being replicated in Nepal, Indonesia, and Guatemala.
- In Tonga, CARE had a formal partnership with local organisations in conducting preparedness planning. When Cyclone Gita struck Tonga in 2018, CARE maximised its existing partnerships leading to increased reach, swift response, efficient administration, cost-efficient procurement, increased sustainability and strengthened partners’ capacity.
- In Yemen, CARE partnered with the Humanitarian Leadership Academy to provide online courses and learning to local partners.
- In Syria, CARE strengthened the internal capacity of partners to manage the projects more effectively and with greater equality given the risks around its type of emergency. CARE focused on building partner capacity for implementation and monitoring.
- In the Pacific, CARE Australia strategically works with local organisations on disaster preparedness and response in island nations where there is no CARE operational presence.
- In Nepal, CARE led national advocacy efforts to ensure international actors including donor increase their funding allocation to local and national actors.
- In South Sudan, CARE put special attention to partners’ visibility and recognition. Any advocacy messages and events always acknowledge and recognise the role of their local partners in their communication materials.
- In Vietnam, CARE strategically partners with local organisations and provides capacity strengthening to them to be able to reach indigenous and marginalised groups.