As the USAID Bureau for Food Security transitions into the Bureau of Resilience and Food Security, various divisions of USAID are undergoing profound transformations. At the same time, resilience has become an integrative framework, requiring collaboration across institutional borders. It is in this context that partnerships have emerged as an important component of USAID’s resilience approach. The Partnership for Recovery and Resilience (PfRR) in South Sudan, which was recently named a resilience country, is one such partnership. PfRR is a deliberate effort to create a model of co-location, coordination, and collaboration among implementing partners, with a focus on strengthening community-level institutions for service delivery in light of South Sudan’s state fragility. In its role as a provider of backbone support to USAID/South Sudan for coordination on PfRR, Policy LINK will actively contribute to learning, with a focus on how best to track and measure resilience and engage communities, and will forge effective partnerships with donors, UN agencies, and other implementing partners.
This activity area focuses on providing backbone support to the Juba level partnership structures of the Partnership for Recovery & Resilience (PfRR), which includes the Technical Engagement Group (TEG), Steering Committee Taskforce, Steering Committee (SC), Donor Working Group (DWG), and the Joint Assessment, Measurement and Monitoring Group (JAMMG). The SC is the body of the PfRR that is responsible for policy making and vision setting. The SC brings together the highest-level decision makers from the partnering institutions within the PfRR.
Policy LINK’s contribution to the PfRR at the Juba level led USAID/South Sudan to think about how such services could support their coordination needs in other areas of the country. The Mission asked Policy LINK to provide an activity plan for supporting USAID program expansion into newly defined Community Focus Areas (CFAs) across 13 counties within five states. Policy LINK had conversations with Mission leadership regarding how such support would look, including the possibility for working directly with USAID Implementing Partners (IPs) on a PfRR-like or PfRR-light approach to create a foundation for resilience work that achieves greater multi-donor, inter-agency, and cross-sector support.
Policy LINK developed an Activity and Operations Overview Plan for the PAs and CFAs that built upon the lessons learned in the PfRR PAs through modeling a PfRR-like Partnership Framework focused on three principles of community engagement: 1) Putting Community First to advance locally-led development, 2) Aligning and harmonizing the implementation of resilience programs with the decision-making processes of international partners and local community stakeholders that enable the community to express its agency, aspirations, and leadership in the identification of community needs, priorities, and benchmarks, and 3) facilitating dialogues that foster greater cooperation, collaboration, and coordination, and result in improved joint work planning between local community stakeholders and USAID IPs.
While the SC is the policy making body that should determine a definitive articulation of the PfRR, this had not yet occurred. Understanding of PfRR structures, key processes, and core concepts were spread across many conversations. Partners often knew about bits and pieces without understanding the whole picture. Moreover, the PfRR aspired to bring together 14 donors, 17 UN agencies and 98 NGOs onto a single platform for achieving the evidence of convergence through colocation, cooperation and coordination. USAID/South Sudan, as the Chair of the PfRR TEG, asked Policy LINK to work on an infographic to communicate the PfRR ecosystem and Partnership Framework. In June 2020, based on several months of consultations with representatives of 40 Civil Society Organizations spread across the four PAs, and with the members of the PfRR TEG, Policy LINK finalized the PfRR Partnership Framework infographic. The Partnership Framework infographic is a pivotal step towards advancing the first foundational Building Block of the PfRR, the Program Framework. The purpose of this Building Block is to create a shared understanding and common language to facilitate cooperation across donors, agencies, and communities.
During the reporting period, Policy LINK reviewed ToRs for the PfRR Structures: JAMMG, DWG, SC, Taskforce, and TEG to ensure coherence and made recommendations for improving the ToRs. In July, the PfRR SC approved the TEG ToR. The TORs unpack the specific roles of each structure and provide clarity for efficient cooperation. To determine the ToRs, Policy LINK worked closely with the individuals currently responsible for the structures. While focusing on the specific responsibilities of each structure, Policy LINK also helped partners look across the structures at their inter-relationships. In terms of formatting, Policy LINK also helped achieve a standard and streamlined way of describing the ToRs.
In February 2020 prior to the onset of COVID-19, the SC Taskforce mandated Policy LINK with a community mapping exercise in order to gain a better understanding of how the PfRR was functioning in the PAs. In August 2020, recognizing that the institutional architecture for resilience (IA4R) tool could help to deliver on this task and being mindful of areas of potential improvement from the original version, the Policy LINK team set out to revamp the IA4R tool to better understand how community operates as a system. The LINK team added a system sensing component, which sought to uncover the connectivity between institutions in response to shocks and stressors in South Sudan. The result was a newly developed IA4R Plus Tool that features both an institutional and household perspective on resilience capacities required to respond to shocks and stressors in the context of the four PfRR Pillars. After designing a first draft of the tool, the LINK team began to ground truth, pre-qualify, and validate the tool with local and international community stakeholders of the PfRR, including each of the four CECs. The project also designed and is planning to deliver a training course for community engagement as well as the mapping tool to civil society organizations (CSOs), building their capacity to undertake community mapping exercises in PAs, including the new CFAs. In September, LINK presented the community mapping tool to the PfRR Technical Engagement Group (TEG) and received a request to conduct follow-up conversations for a technical presentation of the community mapping tools.
At the outset Policy LINK, like its predecessor Africa LEAD II, struggled to gain the trust and confidence of several partners. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the plans of PfRR partners as organizations, agencies, and donors began pulling at-risk and high-profile personnel out of the country to regroup and reformulate programs and investments for responding to the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, Policy LINK received requests to provide technical contributions and support on key issues of concern, such as bringing to the attention of the TEG evidence from the field regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on local communities as well as providing insights into life in the PAs and how communities are coping and responding. The international agencies had very little information regarding the true extent of those impacts including impacts caused by the restrictions on movement, social functions, and economic activities. To be able to carry out focus group discussions in all four PAs and feed that information back to the TEG demonstrated the unique capacity that Policy LINK brings for community engagement and increased the recognition of Policy LINK as an important resource for the PfRR.
Policy LINK is a single-donor mechanism operating within a multi-donor environment, and has been asked to support multi-donor structures. Policy LINK is not fully recognized within that multi-donor environment, which has made gaining traction on broad goals and objectives all the more challenging.
Policy LINK has had to work harder to demonstrate its value as a resource mechanism for the PfRR structures, partners, and donors. Moreover, achieving collaboration with and the cooperation of some specific PfRR partners has been more challenging than others. The lack of standing within the PfRR means that Policy LINK must spend significant time building alliances and socializing its activities with each of the PfRR structures in order to gain buy-in and endorsement.
To some extent, there is evidence of a fixed mindset of siloed operations within the PfRR ecosystem and it is evident in the manner in which some partners defend turf through pushing back on ideas and activities initiated by others, including Policy LINK. Reversing this organizational culture is a necessary condition for effective partnership.
The distribution of financial resources from donors to international implementing partners down to local implementing partners has resulted in a highly competitive atmosphere among local implementing partners such as CSOs as well as created bottlenecks which inhibit cooperation, colocation, coordination, information sharing, and communication.
The Policy LINK team noted a couple of lessons learned from activities undertaken during the reporting period. Although competition is good for free markets, negative forms of competition within a partnership environment is unhealthy. The team found that co-creation is paramount to achieving success within the PfRR. Furthermore, facilitative leadership through creating opportunities and providing a platform for PfRR partners to shine is a productive way to achieve buy-in and endorsement. In addition, Policy LINK experienced better outcomes in working within the PfRR, when there is an expressed demand from PfRR structures to provide support as opposed to having a USAID-only request to support the PfRR. The request by the SC Taskforce to conduct a mapping of the PfRR and the request to review the ToRs of PfRR structures such as the TEG, DWG and JAMMG enable Policy LINK to effectively provide recommendations to the respective structures. Moreover, the fact that Policy LINK has technical human resource capacity and bandwidth to execute tasks that PfRR partners deem invaluable to their own success increases the demand for the services of Policy LINK.
In order for Policy LINK to be an effective backbone support to the PfRR, USAID should be willing to defend Policy LINK and articulate its confidence in Policy LINK when PfRR partners seek to scrutinize Policy LINK’s mandate. The Policy LINK team must be mindful of the need to always co-create, build consensus, and take a facilitative approach in order to generate collective impact and foster collaborative governance. In order to build understanding of the PfRR and improve collaboration, Policy LINK must conduct stakeholder sensitization and ongoing stakeholder analysis as prerequisites for engaging collaborators and detractors. We have seen that the more we engage, the more we win allies within the Partnership, create a demand for our services, and make it more difficult for naysayers to interfere with the backbone support.
This activity area focuses on establishing and advancing the foundational Building Blocks through CSO engagement, facilitating community mapping, facilitating community roadmaps and scorecards, supporting joint work planning, and supporting local community engagement with CFAs.
The PfRR Partnership Framework articulates eight foundational Building Blocks, which are essential processes for fostering cooperation within local communities and between local and international stakeholders, donors, UN agencies and NGOs. These key processes include:
The advancement and establishment of these foundational Building Blocks varies from PA to PA. Yambio was considered the most advanced among the four PAs. However, the changes in the political environment and the protracted political vacuum during the reporting period meant a need for a reboot of PfRR processes and a re-evaluation of the PfRR by the new political leadership.
In the past six months, Policy LINK focused on building trust and rapport with the Civic Engagement Centers (CECs) established through the Democracy International’s SUCCESS project. CECs are managed by Democracy International’s staff in conjunction with a User Committee (UC), which represents elected representatives of the local CSO Network. Each UC member represents an individual local CSO.
In May, Policy LINK facilitated two rounds of conversations with each of the four CECs, with 34 CSO representatives in attendance each time. The first round of conversations discussed the impact of COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed by the Government of South Sudan on households and communities. The second round of conversations assessed the perceptions of the implementation of the PfRR Building Blocks within each PA and sought the opinions of the CSOs on how to make the implementation of each Building Block more effective within each respective PA.
The Policy LINK team centered its engagement strategy around providing a platform for voicing opinions, listening, and providing feedback to the participants for validating the information collected. The result, after several rounds of conversations, is a solid foundation of trust and rapport. This enabled Policy LINK management to hand off the CECs to its newly hired Area Program Managers (APMs).
Policy LINK hired a South Sudanese illustrator to produce a set of cartoon drawings to aid in sense-making for local and international stakeholders learning about PfRR. These drawings illustrate the PfRR in action through visualizing resilience at the household and community level. The team achieved a first draft that will be enhanced with additional features such as painting a picture that tells the story of South Sudanese hopes, agency, and aspirations since the Machakos Protocol (2004), which led to the eventual signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The Policy LINK team developed the framework of the training course curriculum that will enhance the capacity of local stakeholders to understand, coordinate, and implement resilience programming as well as engage in joint work planning and strengthen coordination in the advancement and establishment of the foundational Building Blocks.
During the reporting period, the Policy LINK team developed user requirements for an e-learning platform that builds upon and integrates the functionality of Coursera and WordPress Content Management Systems. DAI’s Center for Digital Acceleration (CDA) will craft a work plan and timeframe for delivery of the e-learning platform to ensure both synchronous and asynchronous courses with frequent pause and reflect sessions.
During the reporting period, Policy LINK had discussions with the USAID/South Sudan’s MEL Advisor to adapt the USAID Community Roadmap and Scorecard Tool to the project’s technical approach, which will ensure that the tool is mainstreamed within the PfRR Joint Work Planning process.
The APMs also co-created with the CECs CSO representatives in the formulation of action strategies for deployment of the community mapping tools, PfRR socialization and sensitization, and a plan for Making Two Hands Clap, which is aimed at bringing together local and international community actors in Joint Work Planning.
The team encountered challenges of responsiveness when engaging with some CEC UCs. Not all of the CEC UCs participate and contribute when an assignment requires their inputs. This is likely due to a high number of other commitments related to their respective CSOs as well as the fact that UCs do not receive payment from the CECs. Aligning their individual schedules with engagement sessions and deadlines was a challenge. It may be helpful to identify a focal person amongst the UCs to follow up when inputs are needed.
The Policy LINK team noted many insights from engagement with CEC UCs. One key learning was that the CEC UCs level of understanding and ownership of the PfRR is still low. The CEC UCs’ and Network of Civil Society Organizations (NeCSOs) Secretariat’s capacity in building local ownership is also shallow. On a positive note, all four CEC UCs were seen as effective mechanisms to support community mobilization, sensitization, and socialization of the PfRR framework and the Policy LINK Community Engagement Strategy at a grass roots level. However, it was noted this would require continuous engagement of the CEC UCs.
The CEC UCs level of collaboration and participation with Policy LINK on different assignments was good, but will need to be reinforced by defining a clear scope of work and deliverables, and building awareness of the key aspects of the Democracy International MoU. Team cohesion among the CEC UCs was also noted as being very strong.
During the exercise to modify and improve the IA4R tool with CECs, a number of lessons learned were noted. CEC UCs’ collaboration could prove useful in the deployment of the IA4R Tool due to their understanding of context. Adequate training of survey enumerators will be necessary, as not all CEC UCs have participated in prior surveys.
The Policy LINK team outlined suggestions to enhance CEC UC members’ participation in Policy LINK activities. Those included: providing specific ToRs for UC members’ time allocation to the project to ensure that all CEC UC members understand the expected time commitment and responsibilities; committing resources and funding for CEC UCs participation in Policy LINK activities; and developing a mechanism of accountability (e.g. submission of reports or any evidence of execution and participation in project activities).
This activity area focuses on strengthening coordination in PAs and CFAs through leadership development and review of Implementing Partner joint work plans. One of the biggest challenges in the PfRR PAs has been the effective participation of local community stakeholders. In addition, USAID’s expansion to CFAs brings the same challenge of ensuring agency among local community stakeholders, providing a platform for voicing their aspirations, and empowering them to assume a leadership role in defining their needs and setting priorities and benchmarks. In order to strengthen coordination in PAs, Policy LINK initiated the hiring of a STTA to be deployed to the PAs for assessing how the communities operate as a system, which would highlight the decision-making processes, interest groups, influencers and the value creation mechanisms. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed by the Government of South Sudan, travel to the states was cut off in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. Like all Partners in South Sudan, Policy LINK had to innovate a new way of working.
In addition, USAID/South Sudan received the Resilience Challenge Funds (RCF), which had earmarked support for strengthening coordination in the PAs to engender the agency, aspirations, and leadership of local community actors. Policy LINK and Democracy International (DI) were both awarded shares of the RCF award.
USAID/South Sudan brought together Policy LINK and DI as co-recipients of the RCF award. Policy LINK was made aware of the CECs that were established by DI through the USAID-funded SUCCESS project in six areas, of which four were PAs. After a couple months of strategic planning meetings, Policy LINK and DI agreed that a MoU would provide a collaboration framework for engaging the CECs in FY 21 and beyond. The project signed a MoU with the SUCCESS project. The MoU helps the parties to align their technical approaches in support of USAID/South Sudan. Policy LINK views the CECs as critical resources to furthering its work virtually through enabling the mobilization of boots on the ground, physical meetings spaces, and eyes and ears into the local communities. Given the fact that CECs are still under the management of DI until September 2021, it was extremely important that both entities reach a common ground that will create a path for achieving last mile extension to the Bomas (villages) through CSOs. DI’s major concern in closing out the SUCCESS project is the sustainability of the CECs. Policy LINK and DI have together furthered the objective of sustainability for each CEC as well as created an avenue for integration of CECs into the PfRR Partnership Framework and ecosystem.
Policy LINK and the Monitoring & Evaluation Support Project (MESP) are the two backbone support mechanisms to the USAID/South Sudan. The Mission asked both MESP and Policy LINK to provide support in the areas of evidence-based decision making for internal purposes of USAID coordination, as well as for the broader PfRR. From the last annual learning forum, it was clearly stated that moving into 2020, evidence needs to be contextualized, harmonized, simplified, and communicated to decision makers in the right place at the right time for programmatic efficiency and effectiveness. It is in this context that MESP and Policy LINK have had to come together and look carefully at the way in which they support data collection utilization, such as to shorten the feedback loops and make the utilization of evidence more precise and impactful.
Effective coordination often requires bold and visionary leadership as well as an abandonment of the siloed approach to humanitarian, development and peacebuilding work in South Sudan. In April, Policy LINK held the first webinar for “Leadership in Crisis”, a four-part series that targeted PfRR partners. The webinar was attended by 33 stakeholders, which included then USAID/South Sudan Mission Director, PfRR structures, and representatives from WFP, UNDP, FAO, UNICEF, UNMISS, civil society and private sector.
In June, LINK adapted the “Leadership in Crisis” webinar series to the South Sudan context, with a focus on meeting the needs of the Inclusive Champions Group and other community-based champions such as private sector actors and women and youth leaders. In June, the project also began the process of modifying the Champions for Change course for the South Sudan context. By August, the project had agreed on coursework structured around six phases on three themes: (1) Community first but not alone, (2) Go with the grain, and (3) It takes two hands to clap. The first component of the course (Phase 0) is a distillation of the PfRR Case Study into a webinar titled “Scaling Resilience: Business Unusual in South Sudan.” This initial webinar is targeted at the civil society actors within the CECs and the LINK Area Program Managers. The webinar will produce a cohort of civil society actors with improved understanding of the PfRR who could facilitate last mile extension to the bomas (villages). USAID/RFS agreed on the webinar context and structure, and USAID/South Sudan agreed to support the launching of the webinar. In addition, Policy LINK aims to socialize the webinar with the PfRR SC and seek endorsement for an adaptation that would be developed as a PfRR 101 course for new and existing partners.
The political environment in South Sudan became a shared governance arrangement between the four major political parties, which was predicated upon consensus in decision-making. However, the inability of the signatories to the Revitalized Peace Agreement to reach consensus on a number of issues contributed to the political vacuum, which made it difficult for Policy LINK to engage government institutions at the state and county levels for much of the fiscal year. The upheaval in the political environment resulted in a regression of the relationship between PfRR partners and subnational leaders. The erosion of the state government relationship gains was most pronounced in the Yambio PA because significant advances were made in the establishment of the foundational Building Blocks since 2018 due to the proactive and highly involved former governor who was champion of the PfRR and was also very supportive of the role and value of Policy LINK.
These changes in the political environment requires the PfRR structures, donors, and partners to reboot and forge new relations with the newly appointed governors and soon-to-be county commissioners. The government will ultimately have to support the PfRR if it is to be sustained, its potential met, and risks of government interference in resilience-based programming mitigated. Trust between the international community and national government is still lacking although the peace agreement does open some new opportunities to reset the relationship. The early lessons from the PfRR show the indispensability of local government in creating an enabling environment for Partnership and the power that the national government has at any time to change the playing field, as occurred when all governors were replaced, including those most active in supporting the PfRR.
The political environment in South Sudan is very fluid, but working closely with the civil society will help to avoid political minefields. The civil society can help identify the technocrats within the state, county, and boma level governments who often occupy more permanent positions within line ministries. While it is very important to stay engaged with the highest levels of government, local government engagement must be balanced between the more politically sensitive positions such as Governors and County Commissioners and the less politically sensitive positions such as the technical positions like Director Generals. In this context, the APMs consulted with the CSO representatives of the CECs to craft a targeted outreach strategy for engagement with the four corners of the local community: traditional administration, private sector, local government, and civil society networks.
Building alliances and forging cooperative arrangements with other IPs is instrumental for success within South Sudan, which is a complex working environment that presents unpredictable challenges from time to time. Therefore, it is important to have collaborators whose resources will be available to leverage during difficulties. This is one of the reasons why the PfRR presents such promise for increasing the effectiveness of the humanitarian response and development investment by focusing on collaboration in resilience-based programming.
Laying a foundation of trust and rapport is indispensable to nurturing effective partnerships that achieve colocation, coordination, cooperation, and collaboration through open and honest communication and information sharing between partners, as evidenced in the relationship between Policy LINK and MESP, Policy LINK and DI, Policy LINK and the CECs, and between Policy LINK and USAID/South Sudan. Through these relationships, Policy LINK has modeled the spirit of collaboration, which motivates the PfRR.
Resilience programming in South Sudan requires a growth mindset at the donor, IP, and local community levels. The ultimate success barometer for the PfRR in PAs and USAID in CFAs is the extent to which IPs can generate genuine cooperation instead of siloed operations and foster joint work planning between international partners and local community actors. Moreover, this requires putting community first and overcoming the mindset of viewing local actors as beneficiaries only and reinforcing their agency to articulate their aspirations.
This activity area focuses on building and applying knowledge and learning within the PAs in South Sudan. This entails developing knowledge management capabilities and a learning agenda, establishing a learning platform for the PfRR and members, conducting regular pause and reflect sessions to capture learning, and providing support for the PfRR Annual Learning and Accountability event.
Policy LINK sought to build upon the lessons learned from the listening tour conducted during Africa Lead and the Annual Learning Forum 2019. Both emphasized the need for tighter feedback loops that reverse the trend of data extraction. Policy LINK focused on processing collected data and quickly feeding it back to help stakeholders make sense of the evidence collected from them for improved decision making in a more timely manner.
During the reporting period, Policy LINK built and applied knowledge and learning within the partnership through support in a number of areas. Policy LINK finalized the PfRR case study and video, and developed learning and communications materials, including illustrations and graphics, to enhance understanding of the PfRR framework and building blocks. The case study is planned for dissemination in a pilot session of about 20-25 people in mid-October, which will be followed-up with subsequent webinar presentations to an internal USAID audience as well as a larger external audience.
In June, sub teams were formed to support development of clustered learning and communications products. In July, the team for curriculum development met periodically to refine the integrated curriculum plan that weaves together the technical approach for the South Sudan activity, the “Leading in Crisis” modules, the Building Block curriculum, and the Champions for Change training. In August, the teams worked on incorporating the design of the PfRR case study webinar(s) and the curriculum with the integrated technical approach.
The sub team for curriculum is designing a Learning Management System (LMS) that will meet the needs of different cohorts within LINK’s South Sudan technical engagement strategy (also mentioned in AA 2.2 and AA 2.3).
At its September meeting, the TEG briefly discussed the possibility of holding a virtual learning forum, but no decision was taken. Policy LINK remains ready to support this event and has reached out to Larry Cooley to confirm his interest in supporting, should this event take place.
Policy LINK is eager and willing to provide support for the PfRR Annual Learning and Accountability Event. However, the PfRR SC must first endorse convening of the annual learning event and the SC Taskforce must provide a clear mandate to Policy LINK for supporting this activity. Therefore, Policy LINK must await direction on its role in organizing the annual forum.
Convening a virtual learning forum poses significant technical, logistical, and operational challenges for the PfRR. From a technical standpoint, South Sudan’s internet network is inconsistent and limited within the PAs. Furthermore, the attention span of partners for sustained virtual meetings is unknown. Given the operational challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, many partners were unable to implement many of the resilience activities planned for FY 20 and shifted gears to respond to the crisis.
The biggest lesson learned during the reporting period is the need for communities to have agency and capacities to spearhead response to shocks and stressors, which are compounded in a fragile state like South Sudan, where communities continue to experience violent conflicts, insecurity, climatic events such as floods, and human and animal disease outbreaks.
Another important lesson that surfaced during this reporting period is the need for impact communications products that can assist with sense-making and decision-making. The PfRR structures, concepts and outcomes remain a challenge to understand for new staff who join donor organizations and IPs. There is general confusion among stakeholders within PAs of the vision and purpose of the PfRR and how it will improve the lives of ordinary citizens. In this regard, Policy LINK attempted to develop illustrations and graphics to simplify and contextualize learning from the PfRR case study. We learned that cartoons can be an effective means of facilitating learning and dissemination of information as was evidenced by Alex de Waal’s articulation of kleptocracy in South Sudan as a failure of the regime post-independence and the virus of rent-seeking that caused the young nation to fall short of the hopes and dreams of its people.
During the reporting period, we learned that community resilience comes when agency, aspiration, and ownership combine, and people step forward to meet difficult challenges together. There, the local community meets an international community that seeks to reinforce but not replace these resilience capacities. The unfolding situation of COVID-19 makes this clear.
In understanding how communities function as systems, activities within those systems should build from foundational institutional architecture and system ‘flow’ to provide support that is scalable and sustainable. In a fragile state like South Sudan, with recurrent crises and civil insecurity, resilience capacities still exist. It is incumbent upon those committed to reducing vulnerability, whether they be internal or external to the community, to identify where these capacities reside and strengthen them. This is why the Partnership includes as two of its eight building blocks, the Resilience Profiles and the Institutional Architecture for Resilience Assessments.
Better understanding of the community’s operating system is a work in progress and is still in the early days, but the Partnership started by asking the right questions. Looking at that evidence from the Resilience Profiles and the IA4R assessments reveals the grain of community. The Partnership has struggled with joint work planning when it tries to achieve it through disconnected workshops. To strengthen joint work planning, the Partnership needs to pay much greater attention to feedback loops at all levels, starting with how data is collected, processed, and used by key decision makers at critical decision points.
Management of information tends to center on securing funding, reporting to donors, and satisfying compliance up the funding ladder. Information is shared horizontally through the humanitarian clusters for the purpose of operational coordination. But the existing cluster system becomes less and less relevant as we move towards recovery and resilience. Under the conventional modus operandi, feedback to the community is rare. From a community perspective, data collection is extractive where information flows from the bottom up and decisions from the top down.
For the PfRR to lead convergence, facilitation and process design are important. Under the business as usual model, not enough attention is put on facilitation. And those who do, do it more through short term technical assistance. Absent a longer-term process, we can easily miss the opportunity to bring program and funding cycles into better alignment. Whatever the assignment of responsibilities moving forward, the Partnership will have to take a long-term view and adopt a systems approach to joint work planning structured around evidence provided in tight feedback loops.
The PfRR is an aspirational vision of coordination, but for the local and international communities to agree on a process and structure for joint work planning, it should evolve from one-off activities separated by long periods of non-engagement into a sustained engagement, ideally by an independent mechanism that is duly mandated and recognized.