9 Partnership working and capacity building (Q3, Q18, Q16, Q17, Q10a, Q10b)
9.1 Throughout the consultation paper, there were references made to the importance of partnership working and (organisational) capacity building in the Scottish Government's approach to international development.
9.2 This chapter focuses on six questions within the consultation paper which addressed how partnership working and capacity building might be enhanced and how expertise available from a range of sectors and partners might be harnessed. The responses to these questions have been analysed together, as there was considerable overlap in the comments. Therefore, the material is presented thematically rather than on a question-by-question basis.  , 
Question 3: Scottish Government seeks to develop the model of Scotland's international development approach (working in bi-lateral partnership, as in Malawi) with a new set of fewer priority countries. What else might we specifically do to enhance the effectiveness of this partnership approach?
Question 10a: When considering that the Scottish Government's partnership approach also draws upon sources of expertise in priority countries, are there specific considerations to include when harnessing 'local expertise' to help deliver programme ambitions?
Question 10b: When considering that the Scottish Government's partnership approach also draws upon sources of expertise in priority countries, are there specific considerations to include when harnessing 'local expertise' to ensure that the programme priorities continue to match each country's priorities?
Question 18: Scottish Government believes that partnerships can also be realised through peer-peer knowledge sharing on key areas of mutual interest, through which both institutions can strengthen their knowledge, skills and capacity and empower their people. We are keen to adapt our current funding mechanisms to support this interest. Please share any views you have, especially on funding mechanisms, on how best to support this ambition.
Question 16: Scottish Government believes we could make better use of the expertise of the Scottish private sector in future through our international development work. Please share any views and ideas on how best to achieve this ambition.
Question 17: Utilising Scottish expertise is a principle of the Scottish Government International Development programme. Thinking of the academic sector in Scotland, in particular, please share any views you have, on how we could improve engagement between the Programme and Scotland's academic expertise.
9.3 There was a high degree of consensus amongst respondents about the importance of these approaches - partnership working, capacity building, harnessing expertise - for achieving successful and sustainable outcomes for the IDF.
9.4 Respondents thought that (efforts to develop) partnership working and capacity building were closely linked. Indeed one of the main benefits of undertaking capacity building would be to enhance partnership working. Moreover, respondents saw capacity building as important not only in terms of organisations, but also in terms of increasing capability and expertise for individuals and communities.
Principles underpinning partnership working
9.5 Some respondents - particularly established iNGOs - identified core principles which they thought should underpin partnership working as summarised below.
- Equality of relationship: Respondents saw the nature of the relationship between the Scottish Government and partner countries as fundamental to the success of the approach. In particular respondents argued that partnerships should be based on mutual respect, recognition of relative strengths and expertise, and shared priority and objective setting.
- Participation: Respondents were clear that partnership working should be based on engagement and participation at all levels and with all sectors of society including national and local government, private sector organisations, NGOs, civic organisations and community groups, faith organisations and academia. Respondents emphasised the importance of involving grass roots organisations and individual communities in the selection, development, delivery and evaluation of projects. Some wished to see links encouraged between Scotland and partner countries at all levels of civic society.
- Governance and accountability: Respondents suggested that partnership working could help promote good governance. Accountability was seen as important for all parties including the Scottish Government. Those focusing on accountability within partner countries argued for governments and organisations to take ownership of programmes and projects or for clarity of roles and responsibilities in delivering and overseeing projects and programmes.
- Understanding the context and learning from others: Respondents emphasised that good partnership working relied on a willingness to understand the context and to learn from others. They suggested that in developing its partnerships, Scottish Government should take an evidence-based approach, and work with others in a way that avoids overlap and facilitates coordination and collaboration.
9.6 Respondents also noted that partnership working was more effective when programme priorities were aligned with the priorities of the partner country. For the most part, respondents thought that development work should be driven by the priorities of the partner countries, or should be based on jointly agreed shared priorities. (Indeed, there was some concern that the document as a whole should have been more clearly framed in terms of partner country rather than Scottish Government priorities.) This was seen as being in line with partnership working, as capitalising on local knowledge and expertise and as leading to efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability.
9.7 Those offering different - although not necessarily mutually exclusive - perspectives noted the following points:
- There may be certain key priorities which the Scottish Government wished to promote, and it may be able to use its leverage in ensuring they were addressed.
- An international external perspective on local issues could be useful, and it was legitimate to challenge partner country governments on their priorities.
- Weak governance in some countries meant it might be important to maintain some independence and not to be completely tied to other governments' priorities.
- It should be recognised that it is in the interests of partner country organisations to develop projects to fit with external partner priorities - whether or not they share those priorities.
9.8 Some respondents focused on the relationship between Scottish Government priorities and 'official' government priorities of partner countries. They discussed the importance of maintaining good ongoing links with governments, government departments and public bodies, and engaging with local planning processes. They also noted that it was important to be aware that governments in partner countries may have limited capacity to deal with the demands of multiple external partners.
9.9 The comments from respondents suggested, however, that many took a wider view in defining a 'country's priorities' and did not see this as synonymous with the government's 'official' priorities. In doing so, they further highlighted the importance of harnessing local expertise in its many forms to gain insight and understanding regarding a country's needs and priorities.
Partnership development through knowledge sharing
9.10 Respondents emphasised the importance for partnership development of a continued Scottish Government commitment to research and knowledge sharing across all its programmes. Respondents highlighted the success of existing mechanisms in generating peer-to-peer knowledge sharing.
9.11 Respondents thought that the Scotland Malawi Partnership and NIDOS were both highly successful in building peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. They wished these kinds of developments to be extended to, for example, increased local authority and NHS linkages.
9.12 There was a great appetite for more learning events of all kinds, including: topic focused workshops, 'sandpit' events, exchanges, teleconferences, visits, social media interaction. It was thought that continuing funding for all these types of events, which contributed to partnership development through knowledge sharing, was vital. There were also suggestions that funding for knowledge transfer partnerships, mentoring and coaching programmes, and volunteer programmes would be useful for partnership development.
9.13 Looking further afield, respondents mentioned other existing mechanisms which provided helpful models for knowledge sharing. These included: the THET Health Partnership model, the Scottish DECs, Tearfund's Climate Justice Project and DfID's GEC programme.
Partnership development through partnership funding mechanisms
9.14 Respondents thought funding processes could be developed to encourage more collaboration and partnership working. For example, the grant application process should be structured in such a way as to support this, and funding should be available for partnership development. (See also the discussion of funding in paragraphs 8.9 to 8.12 above).
9.15 Organisations involved in partnership funding mechanisms might be NGOs, governments, academic institutions, or private sector partners (or any combination of these). Partnerships with academic institutions were highlighted most often, both in relation to having an academic partner on a bid but also in relation to having academic partners in both Scotland and the partner country included. It was suggested that more coordination and less competition between academic institutions for these funds would be desirable.
Capacity building through harnessing the expertise of the private sector
9.16 Respondents from across all groups thought there was potential for greater engagement of, and collaboration with, the private sector - both in Scotland and in partner countries. Respondents identified a range of potential benefits which could accrue, and suggested some models and mechanisms which might be useful in this regard. However, respondents across all groups, but particularly from within the NGO sector, also provided strong caveats to any (greater) engagement. They emphasised that the relationship with, and involvement of, the private sector would have to be governed by a clear focus on the aims of the Scottish Government and a close alignment with the needs of the partner country.
Potential benefits of private sector engagement
9.17 Potential benefits of greater collaboration with the private sector were identified as:
- Additional funding and / or leverage for international development programmes. This could be achieved through donations, private sponsorship of awards, private foundations, matched funding initiatives, and access to other (wider) sources of funding.
- Increased income and income security for partner countries. This could be achieved through initiatives to make existing markets work better (using for example market assessments to improve value chains) as well as creating opportunities for new markets.
- Enhanced sustainability for programmes. This could be achieved as a consequence of a greater focus on trade (rather than aid). For example, NGOs may be able to transition from not-for-profit organisations to social enterprise organisations, and a more export-oriented focus in general could be developed.
9.18 However, a note of caution was also injected into the discussion of potential benefits by one individual. This respondent commented at length on work carried out 10 years ago through the Scotland Malawi Business Group which, despite great efforts and many pledges, had not led to any financial contributions from private sector donors. Another respondent said it would be important to take account of the findings of a forthcoming DfID report on working with the private sector.
Mechanisms for increasing and developing private sector engagement
9.19 It was suggested that events and / or fora to bring together potential private sector partners should be initiated by the Scottish Government, and facilitated by Scottish Government and / or one of its funded network organisations ( NIDOS, SMP, Scottish Fair Trade Forum). This kind of event could be used to gauge levels of interest and encourage dialogue.
9.20 Specific suggestions to increase private sector engagement with Scotland's international development work included:
- Providing tax breaks / incentives for private sector organisations (in particular SMEs) to work in partner countries. This might make use of Scotland's new tax raising powers
- Developing schemes that utilise a matched funding arrangement whereby the private sector would provide matched funding on projects which could utilise their expertise
- Developing initiatives to encourage pro bono support in specific areas
- Enhancing exchanges and work experience opportunities which benefit the partner country
- Involving the private sector in the design of Scotland's international development programmes.
Topics which are suited to (increased) private sector collaboration
9.21 Respondents provided a range of examples of fruitful collaboration with the private sector including in relation to both agriculture and education. The successful examples had been delivered in partnership with local experts.
9.22 More generally, respondents suggested the following might benefit from (increased) private sector involvement: 'infrastructure' projects; the energy sector (especially solar energy and renewable energy more generally); agriculture; manufacturing; accounting and financial services projects; tourism; and medical and teaching expertise.
Conditions attached to private sector engagement
9.23 Respondents across all groups repeatedly emphasised that any collaboration with the private sector should reflect the core values of IDF, and should only be supported if there was sufficient common interest between the Scottish Government and the partner country.
9.24 Respondents offered a range of examples of documents which set out principles / codes of practice which were relevant to the governance of this issue. Moreover, there was agreement that (i) the private sector should be held to the same standards of delivery as other IDF participants; (ii) the role of the private sector should be fully transparent and open to scrutiny by civil society; (iii) due diligence should be carried out on any potential private sector partner including in relation to their alignment with human rights standards; (iv) it would not be appropriate for companies with interests in alcohol, tobacco, soft drinks etc. to be supported; (v) there must be close collaboration with local experts; and (vi) the benefits and profits accruing from private sector involvement should remain in the partner country.
Objections to private sector engagement with Scotland's IDF
9.25 A few NGOs offered more significant objections to private sector involvement with Scotland's IDF, stating that:
- There should be no private sector involvement in the international development programme; any involvement of the private sector should come about through trade and investment initiatives rather than through development funding.
- Private sector involvement in relation to health or education would not be appropriate.
- The private sector should not be eligible to apply directly to the IDF but could be included in collaborative bids led by a non-private sector organisation.
Capacity building through harnessing the expertise of the academic sector
9.26 Respondents were almost unanimous in affirming that the academic sector had much to offer Scotland's international development programme. The sector was seen as an important source of expertise across a wide range of topic areas: e.g. climate change, the environment, and renewable energy technologies. In addition, the academic sector was thought to have the necessary skills for assessing the effectiveness of programmes and their impacts, which was vital for future programme development.
9.27 Respondents, particularly those who were engaged with the academic sector (either because their organisation was an academic or research organisation or because their organisation worked now or had in the past worked with an academic partner), thought that current arrangements were good and productive. Specific examples were offered of successful relationships and collaborations. In particular the Scotland Malawi Partnership explained that it worked in partnership with every Scottish university. Moreover the SMP knowledge exchange mechanism was thought to work well and its training programmes were thought to be worthwhile.
9.28 One academic respondent specifically highlighted the likelihood that capacity in international development in Scottish universities is set to increase (soon) in response to the UK Global Challenges Research Fund. Another highlighted that there was scope for better coordination of existing activities through the Scottish Universities Insight Institute.
Improving links with, and capacity building through, the academic sector
9.29 A strong case was made by respondents across all groups and sectors for additional networking and learning opportunities through events, conferences, workshops and / or a 'matching service'.
9.30 It was thought that the knowledge translation and exchange activities should be given more prominence within programmes. If more of the knowledge which was 'held' within academic institutions could be 'translated' to local partners, then successful programmes could be expanded and replicated more quickly. This was described by some as 'bridging the gap' between (the work of) NGOs, communities, civil society and the academic sector. Joint applications between NGOs and the Scottish academic sector were thought to offer potential benefits.
9.31 Building capacity and capability within the academic institutions of partner countries was thought to be vital, and it was suggested that Scottish academic organisations should work (more often) with these institutions. Respondents emphasised the importance of the relationship between local academic organisations and Scottish academic institutions being a 'two-way street' with mutual learning and opportunities for 'different ways' of interacting. Work based placements and exchanges were suggested as a key mechanism for achieving this.
9.32 Other suggestions for improvement included:
- The establishment of a database of international development interests in universities (in Scotland specifically)
- All future IDF programmes and / or projects having an academic partner
- Scholarship programmes (for students from partner countries) being established in Scottish universities linked to thematic areas
- Academic experts in local languages being supported to help local applicants with project planning; preparing volunteers and workers; and with technical advice.
Caveats in relation to (increased) academic engagement with Scotland's IDF
9.33 A few respondents, mainly from the NGO sector, were more sceptical about the value of engaging with the academic sector, although the reasons for their scepticism were not always clear. The comments ranged from 'cut out the university overhead' to 'academia is not an end in itself' to 'don't give academics control' to 'too much funding is already given to Scottish universities' and 'the academic sector is competitive'.
Capacity building through harnessing local expertise
9.34 Respondents offered views on a range of issues relating to capacity building through harnessing local expertise. These covered: the rationale for of using local expertise; identifying and developing local expertise; and considerations in using local expertise.
The rationale for using local expertise
9.35 Across all sectors, there was a high level of agreement that using local expertise was 'essential' and 'critical' to true partnership working and to achieving successful and sustainable outcomes. It was also highlighted as a key feature of Scotland's 'distinct' approach to international development work. Some respondents contrasted this approach with a more 'paternalistic' or 'one size fits all' approach which relied on bringing in expertise from elsewhere and 'imposing' external solutions.
9.36 In general, respondents felt that local people had an understanding of contexts, cultures and challenges which meant they could advise on priorities and offer solutions which ensured local needs were met and long-term change was achieved. Some also suggested that there were specialist and technical areas ( e.g. water and sanitation, micro-finance) where local personnel could offer more expertise than their Scottish counterparts. Harnessing local expertise was also seen as important in developing links and securing wider local support, building capacity, promoting knowledge exchange and learning, avoiding duplication of efforts and aligning Scottish and partner country priorities.
9.37 One of the reasons for favouring the use of local expertise was that it supported capacity building, and, thus, the long-term sustainability of development work. As such, respondents argued that using local expertise should be a first option, with Scottish or other external expertise only used when local expertise was not available, and that the harnessing of local expertise should be taken forward based on the principles of partnership working (discussed above at paragraph 9.5).
9.38 The importance of building capacity at individual, community and local government levels in order to support active dialogue and participation was also noted.
Identifying and developing local expertise
9.39 Respondents put forward a wide range of individual suggestions as to who might provide local expertise including:
- Political parties and elected representatives
- Government bodies (national and local)
- Academics and academic institutions - across disciplines and at all levels
- Third sector organisations and community groups
- Partner country operations of iNGOs, and other government development programmes (including DfID)
- Private sector organisations, including large and small business, and those in the financial sector
- Professionals in specific areas: health, education, agriculture, etc.
- Faith-based organisations (an alternative view, though, was that development work should be secular in nature)
- Service providers
- Specific individuals - for example, traditional leaders, entrepreneurs or those advocating for marginalised groups.
9.40 At a more general level, however, respondents noted the importance of engaging with a wide range of sectors and organisations (public, private and third sector), and of engaging directly with local communities. Respondents stressed the importance of inclusiveness and advocated drawing on expertise in all geographic areas, and from all types of people - e.g. men, women, young people, those with disabilities, people living in poor and marginalised communities, and those directly affected by the issues being addressed. Some also noted the option of drawing on expertise in neighbouring countries.
9.41 Other respondents suggested that appropriate and relevant expertise should be identified on a project-by-project basis.
9.42 Although most respondents offered examples of individuals and organisations who could provide local expertise, others discussed more generally how expertise might be identified. A few respondents commented specifically that the Scottish Government was currently not well placed to do this, and that resources should be available to allow staff to familiarise themselves with local projects and local expertise.
9.43 Respondents also recognised that a potential barrier to using local expertise was lack of capacity, and argued that capacity building was required to develop local expertise in the first place, through activities such as academic and business partnerships, knowledge exchange initiatives, training schemes, etc. They also highlighted the importance of individual projects providing training, support and mentoring for local staff. There were suggestions for this to be a requirement of accessing funding, and for capacity building to be recognised in project budgets.
Considerations in using local expertise
9.44 Respondents were keen to see local expertise involved in all aspects of programme and project work (management, research, development, design delivery, and monitoring and evaluation), at all levels of seniority; involving local people in partner country volunteer programmes was also mentioned.
9.45 In harnessing local expertise, respondents noted the importance of Scottish Government initiatives offering adequate remuneration and clear and consistent terms of engagement underpinned by partnership principles, clear expectations and clarity of roles, and mutual respect.
9.46 It was also seen as important that those providing local expertise (individuals or organisations) were able to offer:
- Credibility and authority to access gatekeepers and engage with - and challenge - all partners
- Individual integrity or sound organisational governance
- An appropriate track record and proven success
- A commitment to development principles and an understanding of Scottish Government objectives and goals (with appropriate orientation provided).