This is a guest post by Meg Mall, International Development Consultant for Goodwill Industries International
In my various roles with Goodwill Industries International over the past 10 years, I’ve supported and led Goodwill’s international growth and have also played a leadership role in other international associations, such as Workability Americas/Workability International. Those of us working in the international development field all face different challenges based on our mission statements, structure and governance, etc. but I have learned that we all must address issues related to funding, sustainability and how to create and measure impact.
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately on the theme of capacity-building, local ownership and effective practices related to this topic. Capacity-building has been a buzz word for some time now, with a host of different connotations. I am referring to working with local organizations to enhance their own ability to meet the needs of their communities – in this case I’m especially interested in those relationships that cross borders.
The question I find we are facing time and time again in our capacity-building work is in determining that fine line of how many resources to offer in order to successfully meet both our own objectives as well as our local partner’s without compromising the local partner’s ability to truly own the project. We have a system for vetting local partners to identify competencies important to us, such as solid financials, transparency, and entrepreneurialism. What we have found is that even the organizations we identify to be most capable and healthy do not have the ability to find the capital/matching resources needed to launch our project.
One of our principles has been the use of local capital in our international projects – whether it comes from our local implementing partner or through local donors. What effective practices have been discovered related to financial “skin in the game” for local implementing partners? In other words, does the local partner need to incur some risk – financial or otherwise – for the project to succeed? What other factors are critical to ownership and sustainability of the project at the local level?