Phase 1: Planning Ahead

Establishing a Humanitarian Partnership Strategy

A humanitarian partnership strategy allows the country program to identify key objectives and corresponding actions to develop and nurture partnerships with local humanitarian actors. It also supports the country program in achieving its humanitarian goals and partnering strategically with local organisations.

Establishing your humanitarian partnership strategy involves research, formal and informal interviews of your staff, partners, peer organisations, and other relevant stakeholders, and analysis of your existing resources and external humanitarian landscape.

Tips when developing a humanitarian partnership strategy:

  1. Conduct a desk review of existing materials about CARE’s humanitarian partnerships (see link to access Humanitarian Partnerships CARE Shares page). Collect materials on:
    • Country program’s vision, areas of change, likely future directions
    • Country program’s goals and objectives framework aligned with the country program humanitarian response strategy
    • Lessons learned from relationships with partners
    • Country program’s experiences around partnership practice, gaps and challenges
  2. Analyse contextual drivers and trends influencing partnership development
    • Opportunities, non-traditional partnerships, government policies and priorities, civil society operating context, donor imperatives
  3. Map CARE and partners’ strengths and weaknesses
    • Conduct a mutual mapping of strengths, weaknesses/opportunities, capacity resource needs and organisational short and long-term aspirations.
  4. Develop jointly a capacity strengthening plan with partners
    • Analyse how you can match the technical support and training CARE can give to partners and vice versa.

[TOOL] CARE Australia Partnership Development Strategy (2011)

[SAMPLE] CARE Burundi Partnership Strategy (2013)

[SAMPLE] CARE Nepal Partnership Strategy (2015)

[SAMPLE] CARE Pakistan Civil Society Partnership Framework (2013)

[SAMPLE] CARE South Sudan Guidelines for Strengthening Partnerships (2019)

[SAMPLE] CARE Uganda Partnership Strategy (2011)

[SAMPLE] CARE Vietnam Partnership Strategy (2016)

[REPORT] ALtP South Sudan Localisation Frameowrk (2019)

Mapping and Identification of Partners

CARE is committed to working with local organisations in providing humanitarian assistance. As we aim to be a partner of choice for local organisations and networks, governments, social movements, the private sector, and other informal groups, we prioritise the mapping of local humanitarian actors in a given context to identify potential partners and determine if we are fit for each other.

A mapping exercise involves research, formal or informal interviews, and assessment of previous and existing partnerships. The results of your mapping exercise will help you identify local actors to consult and engage. This also contributes to forming relevant alliances and networks.

Things to start with when doing your mapping exercise:

  • Existing and active humanitarian actors, particularly women-led and women’s rights organisations, in areas where CARE operates or will potentially operate.
  • Previous partners that can potentially work with CARE again
  • Local actors with strengths, expertise, and/or geographical presence complementary to CARE
  • Local actors that have the same humanitarian advocacy as CARE
  • Local actors that show leadership, expertise and track record in the sectors that CARE works in
  • Local actors that CARE can learn from or partner with to multiply impact
  • Local actors that CARE can empower to achieve shared goals

It is also advisable to include CARE in the mapping and analyse our strengths and weaknesses in each context. This will allow you to assess which potential partners CARE can be of value to and vice versa.

Criteria for Partner Identification

When identifying your partners, a set of criteria is typically developed by an inclusive decision-making committee formed within your team. Below are some criteria that you may include in your tool:

  • Willingness of the local actor to work with CARE
  • Composition and size of workforce
  • Legal status/history
  • Technical experience –
  • Geographical coverage and experience
  • Reputation among local civil society actors (e.g. communities, etc.) and recognition of organisation’s legitimacy by humanitarian stakeholders
  • Knowledge of the local context
  • Leadership, expertise and track record in the sectors that CARE works in
  • Innovative and creative approaches to achieve results
  • Availability of resources particularly human resources
  • Access, security considerations and ability to operate in a given context or condition
  • Management and governance capacity
  • Mission and strategic objectives of the organisation
  • Commitment to gender equality and social inclusion; protection of women, children, persons with disability, and other vulnerable sectors; value for women’s voice and leadership in emergencies.
  • Capacity strengths and weaknesses
  • Other specific criteria that may be required to meet the needs of the humanitarian response

Inclusive Criteria for Grassroots Organisations

Having a high score in each criterion does not necessarily mean that the partner is automatically selected. In practice, women-led and other grassroots organisations, women’s collectives, community-based groups often have less structured organisational systems. They cannot always effectively meet due diligence standards in comparison to the more established organisations.

That is why the selection committee’s deliberation of other set criteria focusing on localisation and civil society empowerment should be considered.

Organising Your Data

For continuity and evolution of your mapping exercise, it is recommended to create and maintain a database. Then, continue expanding the mapping exercise to monitor progress and update the information. Share the mapping report with all the participating actors. It is advisable to include the review of your partnership database in your quarterly or yearly country program agenda.

[TEMPLATE] Partner Mapping Database

[TEMPLATE] Partnership Directory

Partner Selection Process

A partner selection process should be objective, transparent and fair. It is also advisable to discuss the selection criteria with the potential partners and agree with them that this set of criteria also works for them. CARE and partners need to promote transparency early in the partnership development process discussing the partnership’s purpose and strategic organisational priorities. With this, each party will be able to assess the complementarity and alignment of priorities.

The main objectives of a proper selection process are:

  • Identify the best matching partner. Find the balance between selecting organisations that have high capacity and demonstrated ability to influence change and deliver on shared objectives, and those who have limited capacity in the traditional sense but score high on integrity, values, and legitimacy in terms of belonging to or representing marginalised population groups, such as women grassroots organisations and social movements.
  • Deliver our commitment to empowerment, accountability to impact groups and a rights-based approach. Sometimes we might find that CARE can add more value nurturing and grooming emerging civil society forms rather than capitalising on already high-performing organisations. At other times, it might be strategic to select high-capacity organisations and support their work. Partnership with smaller organisations requires more risk willingness, time, and patience on CARE’s side. Some donors give us the flexibility to work with smaller partners, others impose more stringent requirements (making donor negotiation necessary), but few would argue with the importance.
  • Understand strengths and weaknesses of potential partners to inform capacity strengthening needs.
  • Identify potential financial, reputational or security risks for both CARE and partners.
  • Ensure a transparent process for all potential partners.
  • Comply with donor and country program rules for selection of partners.


Developing Eligibility Criteria

It is important to know what you are looking for in a partner. Scoring partners against eligibility criteria will increase the objectivity of the selection process. Eligibility criteria may vary depending on the context and specific situation of your response. The following criteria are often considered:

  1. Proven track record in emergencies: partner has experience working in emergencies.
  2. Proven track record in core sectors: partner has complementary expertise in CARE’s core sectors (sectors of your response strategy).
  3. Geographical coverage: partner has complementary presence or connections in CARE’s target areas.
  4. Institutional capacity: partner has adequate policies, procedures and systems in place to support the work of the organisation.
  5. Finance & compliance: partner has adequate control mechanisms in place to ensure sound financial management and minimise financial risks; or has the flexibility for capacity development.
  6. Reputation: partner has a good reputation and is well accepted in the communities and areas of operation.
  7. Gender: partner is committed to work on or learn about gender equality and social inclusion.
  8. Shared values & principles:partner has shared beliefs, values and principles.
  9. Humanitarian principles:partner is independent and impartial and is guided by the humanitarian principles
  10. Partner diversity:the group of CARE’s partners should be a cross section of society, reflecting ethnic as well as possible partisan affiliations.

Ideally, the eligibility criteria should be agreed upon by the selection committee before publishing a call for partners.

[TEMPLATE] Partner Eligibility Criteria Rating Tool

[SAMPLE] CARE Lebanon Partner Selection Process – Pandemic Setting (2020)

Due Diligence Assessment

A mutual due diligence assessment allows CARE and the partner to have a closer look of each other’s internal structure, resources, and capacity to identify the risks that may exist when CARE and a partner are working together and to assess our common capacities to manage the relationship, implement the activities and comply with donor requirements.

Assessments should also consider ‘due diligence’ issues that might make a local organisation ineligible as a partner. While the context can call for heightened awareness, it is often possible to get enough sense on these from normal inquiries. Concerns can include:

  • Political affiliation of the organisation and its key officers
  • Conflict of interest due to dual role between management and executive committees
  • Corruption, perhaps indicated by bad bookkeeping, audits or past donors
  • Nepotism, where key staff have close family links to CARE employees, or where nepotistic hiring clearly compromises the organisation’s integrity
  • Partiality to project participants such as ethnicity, religion or clan politics
  • Abuse of power in the areas where we operate, including for money or sex
  • Evidence of discrimination against people based on age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
  • Cases of gender-based violence, sexual harassment and exploitation linked to the organisation or any of its staff
  • Unsuitable mission: for example, too much promotion of religious beliefs can be an issue
  • Links to warring factions or opposing movements
  • Links to terrorism

Check with your CARE Lead Member (if applicable) and relevant donors if there are any requirements related to terrorism legislation. Each CI Member / Candidate / Affiliate and their CARE Implementing Presences has procedures for screening against applicable Prohibited Party lists, such as using Bridger XL.

While the capacity assessment is focusing on existing capacities, due diligence is focusing on establishing a risk rating. Due diligence (or risk) assessments should only be conducted with pre-selected partners.

It is recommended that the due diligence assessment include program and program support staff in the selection committee to assess all relevant areas (finance, compliance, safety and security, program, etc.).  This is important since some organisations who might have less experience in compliance yet are better aligned with CARE’s priorities and program objectives.

Still, through a proper and fair due diligence assessment, you will be able to define red lines and take risks specifically if partners do not meet due diligence requirements or appear to contravene humanitarian principles. Mitigating risks through capacity assessments at selection stage should be considered during this early stage of partnership identification.  The results of a due diligence assessment can inform capacity strengthening activities for both CARE and the partner, and specific actions the partner or CARE might take to ensure both parties have the support they need to succeed.

Selection Committee

Decisions around partner selection are usually made by a Selection Committee (also called Partnership Committee), which oversees transparency and fairness of the selection process, and ultimately has approval authority.

The selection committee objectively reviews and verifies the partner identification and selection process. It also addresses critical challenges and contributions related to the partnership over the course of project implementation. The committee includes more than one CARE staff from the relevant funded program, program support/finance, security and partner funding agreement management units.

[TOOL] CARE Turkey Partnership Selection in Emergencies with Annexes (2022)

[SAMPLE] CARE Somalia Partnership Committee TOR with Annexes (2011)

[SAMPLE] CARE Pakistan Partnership Coordinator TOR

Establishing Non-Traditional Partnerships

CARE supports and engages with diverse partners in a variety of ways – both formal and informal. CARE values the important role of a constantly evolving civil society in mobilising citizens, holding governments accountable for the progressive realisation of human rights, and identifying new solutions to injustice for scale-up.

In our humanitarian work we recognise and reinforce the value of local actors in response – as they are often better positioned and able to provide appropriate needs-based assistance to affected populations.

To support our CARE 2030 Agenda, CARE aims to strengthen its partnerships with women-led and women’s rights organisations, informal groups, advocates and social movements that may not require financial commitments as some of them may not be formally registered. This type of partner usually contributes to information dissemination, advocacy, community mobilisation and visibility.

In some cases, CARE can support these partners through small and short-term agreements (e.g. to women grassroots networks). A specific agreement can be developed for this partnership and may not require an extensive due diligence process and deliberate eligibility criteria.

As a recommendation, try exploring other types of partnerships depending on your own programmatic goals. Ensure that we partner with a representative range of local actors. Develop a partnership strategy that includes the flexibility to accommodate non-traditional partnerships with smaller, informal organisations or social movements.