Phase 3: When Disaster Strikes
Formalizing partner funding agreements
Once the partner is selected, it is now time to formalise the partnership, agree on terms and conditions and start the project design and budgeting.
Having a contingency agreement in place developed during the EPP will significantly speed up the process. For every response or project, the following steps are recommended in close collaboration with the partner:
Contracting & Start-up Checklist
- Decide on your model of collaboration.
- Develop and agree on budget; also be transparent about CARE’s budget and resources going to other partners including core costs/SPC (within limits of confidentiality around individual salaries and the like).
- Develop and agree on mutual work plan.
- Develop and agree on M&E plan and tools.
- Negotiate terms and conditions & finalise/sign a partner funding agreement.
- Conduct inception workshop (including orientation to donor regulations)
- Transfer 1st tranche of budget to partner
Although CARE has a standard resource-based partnership agreement template, the budget and work plan should be developed jointly. Do not impose anything on the partner. Ensure that the partner funding agreement works for both CARE and partner, and that partners are sufficiently oriented on the terms and conditions of the agreement. This will prevent or lessen the frustration and problems you might encounter in the implementation stage.
Models for collaboration
A ‘model’ for partnership will describe how much, and in what ways, CARE is to be involved in operations. At one extreme, partners might have great autonomy, while CARE primarily monitors and contributes to proposal and report development. This happens in areas where there is no CARE presence, and the partners are the primary project implementer. For example, in some Pacific Island nations, CARE works with local organisations to implement the project and CARE remotely collaborates and monitors with them.
In other cases, CARE may be very hands-on in directing activities such as handling procurement, logistics or finances; providing training or mentoring; and participating in day-to-day decisions.
Ideally, CARE and partner should jointly conduct the activities, complementing each other’s capacity and filling in the gaps.
Factors that should inform decisions about the model for collaboration include:
- Capacities of each party
- Program complexity & duration
- Geographical and disaster context
- CARE and partner’s track record locally and nationally
- Amount of funds
- Ability of each party to comply with donor requirements
These factors vary case-by-case. But in general, the smaller the funding, the easier to manage by both CARE and partner. Also, the more trust CARE and partners have for each other, the more collaboration models can be explored.
Consider these issues for collaboration
- Whether all aspects of a program can be implemented by a partner, and whether CARE should conduct some of the activities
- Which functions (e.g., procurement, logistics, warehousing, or finance) can be managed by partners, and which should be handled by CARE, taking into account relevant donor requirements
- Whether CARE should provide technical assistance or training, for example, in program approaches, standards, finance or procurement
- How the relationship will be coordinated and managed, who makes what decisions, how often management meetings take place, etc.
CI Partner Funding Agreement Policy
For CARE, a funding relationship is a type of relationship and recipients of CARE funds in all their diversity are partners. CARE International’s (CI) partner funding agreements define the contractual relationship between CARE and a recipient. CI has established a Partner Funding Agreement Policy with the intent of addressing challenges in power dynamics, equal decision-making, risk management and partner capacity strengthening.
The CI Partner Funding Agreement Policy applies when CARE is providing funding to another organisation(s). CARE and potential partners will identify and select each other through processes that are inclusive for potential partners and are in keeping with CARE’s core values and principles.
The standards and requirements in the policy ensure transparent, fair and open process throughout the CI partner funding agreement lifecycle, making the policy available to partners and enabling the partners to apply the same level of scrutiny towards CARE as CARE applies to them.
The policy provides minimum standards that all CI Members/Candidates/Affiliates and their offices must follow. This policy outlines the following management requirements during the CI partner funding agreement life cycle, which may be part of a broader partner relationship that CARE and the partner have cultivated.
Phase I – Pre-Award: Minimum eligibility requirements, partner selection, mutual due diligence and common risk assessment, capacity strengthening
Phase II – Contracting: Types of contracting mechanisms and approval thresholds
Phase III – Implementation and Monitoring: Including reporting, processing modification and amendments, periodic mutual performance and audit reviews
Phase IV – Close-out
The CI Member/ Candidate/ Affiliate and its offices must ensure the following mandatory minimum standards for its partner funding agreement management processes and procedures:
- Fit for purpose with the program needs and operational context.
- Promotion of program quality and accountability to target populations.
- Negotiating and setting out clear expectations.
- Compliant with the donor requirements and available funding.
- Appropriate support by CARE (funding, CARE program and program support staffing) to ensure management of CI partner funding agreements and demand driven capacity-strengthening of CARE staff and partners.
- Appropriate funding mechanism (i.e., type of CI partner funding agreement) for the partners to carry out and in accordance with program needs.
- Clearly describes minimum eligibility requirements as the basis for providing funds to a partner, strictly limiting additional requirements to a well-justified and necessary minimum.
- Establishes and maintains a partner selection process that ensures the respect of the principles stated in this policy.
Consider the following when developing the partner funding agreement:
- A standard format and conditions should be pre-agreed by senior country program staff (and lead member, as applicable). If possible, use established formats.
- The conditions of the agreement should be discussed and determined jointly with the partner. Do not impose conditions on them.
- Senior staff in finance, support and program departments should be consulted and approve sections of the agreement related to their area of responsibility.
- Approval and sign-off authority for agreements is defined by each CI Member/ Candidate/ Affiliate.
- Make at least one original copy of the agreement for the partner and for CARE. CARE should hold at least one original in the country program head office. The project managers must also at least get a copy for reference.
Rapid Needs Assessment and Reporting with Partners
In most cases, CARE’s partners are the first responders when an emergency hit. That is why having a humanitarian partnership system in place will help CARE conduct rapid needs assessment, gather data and write project proposals with partners.
Orienting the partner about CARE’s rapid needs assessment and reporting protocol and tools should ideally be done during the EPP. Some country programs also conduct simulations of assessment with partners.
An emergency assessment protocol should be jointly developed with the partners. The protocol outlines the process for assessing the humanitarian situation and determining requirements for a potential response to an emergency. This process is primarily used for initial rapid assessment at the onset of emergency; additional detailed and technical assessments may be required during emergency.
In terms of reporting, some country programs have modified existing CARE sitrep template to accommodate additional data and information that the partner also intends to capture, and to merge with the template the partner is using.
Ways to Improve Emergency Assessment and Reporting with Partners
- Involve partners in decision-making when developing or rolling out protocols and tools. In most cases, the partners are more familiar with the location, local culture, political dynamics so it is necessary to have them lead the coordination process.
- Encourage the partner to present their existing emergency assessment and reporting protocols. Being able to see what the partners have been using can also help CARE improve its own tools and protocols. Or CARE and partner can both agree on complementarity.
- Give proper credit to partner for data and information. Since the partner contributes gathered data that CARE uses for its sitreps and proposals, make sure they are given full credit especially if the materials will be shared externally.
- Ensure that there is a coordination or info sharing platform accessible to all relevant staff. In some cases, CARE and partners split teams when conducting an assessment in a specific area. Having a user-friendly and accessible platform will make it easier for all staff to share real time information.
- Make sure to send the CARE sitrep to the partners. Usually, CARE processes all the data and information coming from the assessment teams and shares a sitrep to CARE International. Country programs can create a version without the confidential internal information to be shared to partners.
Design and Implementation
After conducting the emergency assessment and gathering necessary information, CARE and partners can now jointly develop a response that will address the needs of people affected by the emergency. Involve the partners in designing the project; identifying the objectives and modes of implementation; developing a specific logic of intervention; and assigning roles and responsibilities for each party.
CARE or the partner might lead the implementation of an objective, a component or specific result in a project; or it might be that CARE and the partner have agreed on joint implementation and/or co-designed a project or program together.
Ways to Improve Project Design with Partners
- Involve the partners in proposal development. Designing a project is usually part of the proposal development phase. Make sure that you involve relevant partner staff in writing the proposal as they have more knowledge and experience in the target area.
- Analyse CARE and partner’s past experiences in responding to emergencies. If a similar response was implemented. Revisit the approaches and good practices, and brainstorm new ideas with partners.
- Consider the results of your capacity assessments with partners. These will help you identify capacity strengthening opportunities for both CARE and partners.
Developing a Work Plan
A work plan helps both CARE and partners identify key activities linked to the project’s logframe and assign roles and timeframe for each activity. This also contributes to a more efficient project implementation as both CARE and partner can track the flow of project activities and be more realistic in terms of achieving the target objectives on time.
Ways to improve work plan development with partners:
- Develop activities that reflect CARE and partner’s humanitarian values and principles.
- Be specific and agree on exact activities, division of responsibilities and timeline with partners. In the prep stage, share a standard detailed Implementation Plan with partners outlining activities and sub-activities.
- Be flexible. Particularly during emergencies, the situation will change daily. Hence the work plan may be modified multiple times to reflect the changing situation on the ground. Also, this lessens the risk that the partners carry when they do the implementation on the ground.
- Include training sessions and capacity strengthening interventions where relevant.
- Set dates for check in or updating with partners. It is important that everyone reviews the conducted activities, stays on track, and addresses immediately emerging concerns or issues. CARE must make sure that these check-ins provide those safe spaces for honest or candid feedback from partners, in the same way that we provide that to them.
- Start working on a procurement plan as soon as numbers and locations are known. Procurement may take a lot of time so the sooner this plan is ready the better.
- Develop and roll out protocols, tools and templates agreed with the partner. The tools should be user friendly and be easy to modify in an emergency setting. It’s much better if you allot a day of orientation for relevant staff. In some cases, the partner has many enumerators for monitoring, and it may take time to ensure familiarisation with new tools. So, keep that in mind when doing your work plan.
Making and Managing Budgets
Developing budget is one of the most important parts of formalising the partnership. Being able to agree on budgets for each other will contribute to having an overview of activities, identifying the mode of implementation, managing of expectations, and defining the project limitations. Ensure that you involve your partner when developing the budget for the response.
Ways to Improve Budgeting with Partners
- Agree on the budget with the partner while the proposal is being developed. Re-negotiating the budget during the implementation may challenge or affect the relationship with the partner.
- Use formats and budget line descriptions that meet donor/CARE/partner standards and requirements.
- Review budgets to ensure all costs are covered and are not too high or low. Check costs such as insurance for staff and similar expenses.
- Be clear on administration/program split.
- Pay partner overhead/core costs.
- Use established partner scales for salary, benefits, per diem and transport, within permitted donor limits. Otherwise, use common local rates.
- Avoid duplication of project staffing structure between CARE and partner. In most cases, CARE is not a direct implementer and has different responsibilities.
- Include simple narrative notes in budgets to explain costs.
- Budget line flexibility should be clear. Establish which budget lines may vary, and by how much. Budget line flexibility is usually around 10% but may vary by donor.
- Budget amendment must be governed by an approved partner funding agreement amendment / modification. Justification is essential. Discuss amendment process with partners, as CARE has been making efforts to simplify the process.
- Allot budget and time for capacity strengthening for both CARE and partner based on the capacity strengthening assessment.
- Budget for a focal person within your office (usually the partnership advisor or someone who is not the budget holder of the grant) to function as an “ombudsman” and to hear and investigate feedback and complaints in the interest of the partners.
Developing surge capacity with partners
Surge capacity is our ability to get the right people at the right time doing the right things to support crisis-affected communities. CARE has committed for our responses to be ‘as local as possible and as international as necessary’. Local capacity can be supplemented as required by regional and international capacity for short periods.
When responding to a crisis, we work with our local partners who also have their own emergency rosters. In some cases, partner staff are seconded to support our emergency responses or vice-versa.
Ways to build surge capacity:
- Develop an emergency roster of both CARE and partner staff. Identify their key strengths, their skills and experiences in responding to emergencies and confirm their willingness to be part of the roster in case of an emergency.
- Have capacity strengthening activities for emergency roster. Assess the current roster that you have and see how you can develop some members to improve certain skills that are needed for an emergency response. For example, if you lack an Information Manager, consider training a current member of your roster who has the closest skillset to the mentioned role.
- Consider deploying partner staff in locations outside of their areas of operation. In some cases, a staff of a local partner can be deployed and seconded to respond to an emergency.
- Develop clear agreements and guidelines on partner staff deployment. Utilising the partner staff skills should also be amendable for the staff’s mother organisation. CARE should act as a partner and should not pirate a partner staff by offering bigger compensation or better work opportunity.
Conducting Inception Workshops with Partners
An inception workshop (usually 1-2 days depending on the type of project) should be organised as soon as budgets and work plans are agreed upon. The workshop is meant to introduce the program to all relevant CARE and partner staff and kick-start implementation. Depending on the situation, this can be conducted virtually if needed.
This is the ideal venue to introduce CARE and partner’s culture and principles, explain specific donor regulations, agree on programming standards, clarify mutual expectations, refine implementation plans, understand reporting requirements, and agree upon mutual monitoring activities and responsibilities. It should also include discussion about close-out requirements so all parties can plan appropriately. The workshop will help both CARE and partner be on the same page in terms of ways of working.
Typically, staff from programs, finance, gender, procurement, communications, MEAL as well as safety & security are invited and lead short sessions. When doing an inception workshop, partners should lead some sessions for a more inclusive and participatory approach.