CHAPTER 7: Partnership: A search for different modalities
The restoration of democracy in Nepal in 1990 and the subsequent registration of national and local NGOs allowed additional types of partnerships. As a regionally based programme, SRWSP wanted to work with NGOs and the private sector from the same region. Partnerships with local authorities were established to guarantee smooth coordination and planning, while the close cooperation with the drinking water governmental line agency, established during the implementation of CWSSP, was maintained. While in partnership with these organisations, SRWSP did not maintain a direct link to the WSMC. The SRWSP philosophy underlying the implementation of drinking water and sanitation programmes allows for the involvement of more than one partner; hence the term 'multiple partnership'.
With a few communities, SRWSP does maintain a direct relationship and takes full responsibility for the implementation of the entire project. In these cases, the WSMC is the sole partner of SRWSP. Since only two parties are involved in this type of partnership, it is called 'dual partnership'. SRWSP chose such partnerships in order to gain valuable experience in working directly with the community. New ideas and educational material could be tested and monitored. SRWSP was still forced to work in dual partnership as well, because Nepal's civil society was, and still is, very young and immature. The more important partners for SRWSP are local NGOs, private consulting firms, local authorities and governmental line agencies.
SRWSP works in partnership with district or village based NGOs. They have a number of advantages: A good knowledge of the local situation, direct contact with the community and the local authorities, they learn quickly and are highly motivated for development work. Therefore, the local NGO partners can help the community fulfill all the eligibility criteria. They are also expected to help the WSMC manage all activities related to the implementation, operation and maintenance of the project. Generally, NGO partners are responsible for the social component of the programme.
Most NGO partners are locally based and have not been exposed to the skills and knowledge needed to successfully execute a participatory community management programme. Therefore, SRWSP strives to build up the institutional capacity of the partner NGOs. This is done through NGO orientation workshops, community management and PRA field practice training, gender training, regular NGO meetings, and monitoring support for the facilitators. Those NGO partners with a keen interest in taking up technical tasks receive capacity-building training for technical people. Formal training and consultation alone are not enough to upgrade the knowledge and skills of members. Therefore, SRWSP staff visit the project sites quite frequently and work together with the NGO facilitators. Such supervisory visits significantly develop confidence among the NGO workers.
Private Consulting Firms
Locally available technical consultants are hired for the implementation of technical work, usually for feasibility studies, detailed surveys and design, and construction of the drinking water systems. SRWSP expects a high level of professional quality of all the work done by the consulting partners. Technically this is usually not a problem, but when it comes to working in a transparent manner so as to allow skills and knowledge to be transferred to the community, such consulting firms have little experience. Here too, then, SRWSP aims to build up the capacity of the private consulting partners. The use of local consulting firms encourages the development of the private sector and thus helps improve resource availability in the area.
Local Authorities and Governmental Line Agencies
In Nepal the village and district based local authorities have funds at their disposal for the implementation of development projects. The construction of small drinking water schemes is among the preferred activities. Therefore, partnership options with the district authorities were explored. Unfortunately, a common understanding of implementation strategy and an overall vision could not be reached. Differences were encountered on issues such as sanitation, participatory planning, a community's sense of ownership, gender balance and technical standards. It was therefore decided not to opt for partnership with district authorities. In the meantime, the available funds have been shifted from district to village level authorities. This encourages a higher level of responsibility and accountability on the people's part. It opens up new opportunities, and SRWSP is now exploring partnership with the village level authorities, especially since the district authorities are now playing an active role in coordination and planning.
The district level governmental drinking water line agency, which was Helvetas' partner for the implementation of CWSSP has well-trained and experienced technical staff at its disposal. Its problem, however, is its high level of bureaucracy and the difficulties it has in working in a participatory manner. Furthermore, it is a very male oriented straight-forward technical organisation, unlikely to adjust to a more social and gender-sensitive working style. Nevertheless, the long-standing relationship with the governmental line agency created an openness for cooperation. SRWSP provides all technical information to the line agency. At the national level it has been agreed that the drinking water line agency provides technical support to the WSMCs during the operation and maintenance phase. The need for this may come up when parts of the system are destroyed due to landslides or other natural disasters. The operation and maintenance fund should be sufficient to cover the cost for material.
Key issues regarding partnership
NGOs are a relatively new phenomenon in Nepal. Their credibility and capabilities vary greatly. Some national NGOs are well established, but experienced local NGOs with their own strong vision for social development are still quite rare. Existing local NGOs have the tendency to adjust to the donor's requirements, so that within SRWSP more of a donor/client relationship is maintained than a true partnership. The strength of the local NGO is its direct link with the community. Its inexperience has to be compensated with intensive capacity-building activities and strong supervision at the implementation level.
• A sensible diversification of dual and multiple partnership has proven healthy.
It is widely acknowledged that the dual partnership model (project implementation by SRWSP personnel only) produces more predictable results in terms of construction quality and project time frames. The potential of the multiple partnership model, and in particular its role in strengthening civil society, is better suited to meet Helvetas' organisational objectives. However, for this partnership model to work, individual partners must be able to meet their own core objective while at the same time embracing the philosophy and principles of SRWSP. The dual partnership approach is important for the development of new community-led processes, 'apprentice' NGOs and exploring new initiatives. The capacity-building of local NGOs and private sector enterprises has ensured the possibility of working with the multiple partnership approach.
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