International non-governmental organizations often ask a lot of partners in terms of reporting requirements – but how many provide reports in return? This simple innovation, introduced after receiving feedback from partners has changed the dynamic for INGO Peace Direct.
Peace Direct, which supports local peace-building organizations, engaged Keystone to survey their partners about the state of the partnerships. They discovered that reporting to partners is an important step in accountability.
Tom Gillhespy, Head of International Programmes at Peace Direct, said: “To have one-way reports does not reflect an equal partnership and does not keep partners informed of what is happening at Peace Direct and what they have done for us. By reporting to our partners every quarter they can see better what we are doing for them (often a lot is unseen) and they can direct us differently if they so wished.”
“Really it is about developing an equal partnerships, sense of team and creating a Peace Direct ‘family’ where our partners are part of that.” – Tom Gillhespy, Head of International Programmes at Peace Direct
Partners reported through Keystone’s Performance Survey that they felt Peace Direct’s reporting requirements were taking up too much of their time.. In response, Peace Direct made efforts to reduce the time demands on partners including simplifying reporting requirements, switching to regular calls rather than written reports and having a lead person at Peace Direct and the partner for communication to avoid duplication.
Peace Direct also introduced ‘Partnership Agreements’ setting out the expectations of both partners without mention of funding. These ‘Partnership Agreements’ are commitments to support the partner for three years at a time, and give some assurance that Peace Direct is committed to the relationship even if funding limitations might be shorter term (and sometimes not there at all). Tom Gillhespy explained that this was a response to feedback from partners that they were weak in funding commitment periods – an issue out of Peace Direct’s control because they rely on donors.
“There is much more to our partnership than funding and no funding does not equal the end of our partnership.” – Tom Gillhespy, Head of International Programmes at Peace Direct
Peace Direct is committed to measuring the quality of partnerships regularly. Staff and partners worked together to identify the characteristics of a strong partnership. Peace Direct uses this ‘score card’ in discussion with each partner every six months. Each partner scores the other independently and then this forms the basis of discussion around how the partnership is going.
Ruairi Nolan, Head of Research and Engagement at Peace Direct said: “This gives us space to bring things up and an opportunity to see things from the other’s point of view. Good partnerships have to work well for both parties.”
In addition to this, Peace Direct emphasised the benefit in repeating the Performance Survey.
Ruairi Nolan said: “It enables us to track performance over time. We have so far scored well both times but we would not want to just assume that will always be the case. Organizations change and evolve as do relationships and the Performance Survey is a useful way to track partnerships.”
Peace Direct has taken Keystone Accountability’s Performance Survey twice and is committed to take it again this year. You can read the most recent report here.