ODI Civil Society Partnerships Programme Third Annual Partners Meeting
The ebpdn (previously called CSPP) partners’ third annual meeting was this year held in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 20 participants attended from different civil society organisations in Asia, Africa and Latin America, of which seven had attended one or both of earlier annual meetings. Present was also external advisor David Lewis from London School of Economics who attended the annual meeting for the first time.
The meeting focused on what had been done over the last year and initiated a discussion on how to design the programme’s third phase, from April 2008 to 2011.
After a warm welcome to Colombo by Priyanthi Fernando, an introduction to the meeting by Naved Chowdhury and round robin introductions of all participants, the first day began with a presentation by John Young. He outlined the Monitoring and Evaluation information required for the ebpdn Annual Report, due to be submitted to DfID in January and with a subsequent discussion among the partners around how partners could learn more about ODI performance and how internal governance and resources can be sustainable. One idea that came forward from this was to have a peer review of the network by the partners themselves. This was followed by presentations from two partners on case studies illustrating improved policy impact, Robert Kelly from CSPR and Nuning Akhmadi from SMERU. After lunch Jack Jones Zulu explained the current standing of the African Network and it was agreed that ACHA would develop a proposal for the network’s leadership. A discussion on a possible Asian or South Asian network emerged after Vibhor Bansal presented Lessons Learnt from the ToT workshop in Asia. The afternoon was given to Fletcher Tembo and Nicola Jones to present external projects involving partners, and a discussion on how to improve the ebpdn website led by Naved completed the first day and brought forward many helpful suggestions around design, usefulness and purpose.
The second day was dedicated to further updates on members’ activities during the past year, focusing on progress of the Action Research Projects and Global Projects. This was followed by group work on four different topics; capacity of ebpdn website, composition and participation of partners and capacity to raise more funding. Many interesting suggestions came out of this, including improvements to the ebpdn website; creating two strands of the network, distinction between partners’ and members’ needs; partners’ responsibilities; mapping member institutions; increased shared knowledge; and working on a donor profile.
John concluded the day by summarising some of the key points he had noted down; (1) the wish to differentiate within the network between research and capacity and (2) the idea to have regional ‘hubs’ in charge of knowing what’s going on in that region. He then returned to his question from the first day on what else should be included in the Planning process for April 2008-2011. He opened up for further discussions to take place in December to February on a private part of the ebpdn website. He also suggested a more substantial study, possible during 2008/09 on the user-friendliness of the material we publish and who uses it. Finally, the partners saw this opportunity as a chance to express their thanks and gratefulness to Naved for all the support he has shown during his time as network coordinator.
On the final day the group divided into two; one group remained in the hotel to discuss Networks, the other visited the CEPA office to meet senior staff from some of the other TTs in Sri Lanka.
The group working on networks shared experiences on how to run networks and encourage participants to feel that they benefit from belonging to a network. Key points from the subsequent discussion included:
Networks evolve around six key functions;
Issues around core funding, sustainability and governance are crucial for the success of a network;
A strong leader can be helpful to build a network, but also a risk;
A network is accountable to those who fund it – whether members or donors;
A network can compete with its members for funding if the members are not mobilised enough;
Engage with ODI to benefit from partnership with ebpdn.
The group that visited CEPA met the directors of the Law and Society Trust, Institute for Policy Studies, International Centre for Ethnic Studies and The Centre for Policy Alternatives, and the Chair of CEPA, and discussed the role of TTs in Sri Lanka. Key points included:
The impact of 30 years of conflict and political uncertainty, and increasing government distrust of NGOs and TTs
The economic growth from the export garment industry and remittances from the gulf masking negative impact of liberalization
The decay of academia and independent thought
The erosion of independence of the semi-government and still politically powerful TTs (IPS, Marga Institute, HARTI etc)
The emphasis on sectarian issues, federalism and conflict at the cost of social issues.
Key conclusions and follow-up
Participants value these meetings as opportunities to meet and discuss progress. They should continue. Having them in southern countries is a good idea. They should also provide an opportunity for southern members to learn more about ODI’s other programmes.
There has been good progress over the last year. The programme should continue in a similar form for Phase 3 with network building, capacity development and collaborative projects.
The need to find other sources of funding for specific projects (e.g. LA Trade) but also more general funding for the network.
Participants recognised the need to find evidence of impact on policy issues as well as evidence that the network is thriving.
The need to learn more systematically and effectively across the ARPs and GPs and share experience on what works and what doesn’t work. This could be done through forums on ebpdn.org
There was renewed enthusiasm among African participants to establish an Africa subnetwork.
ACHA was chosen to develop a proposal.
There was general enthusiasm from partners to work on collaborative projects funded through other routes (e.g. GTF and GRAP), but need time to contribute to proposals, and it is often difficult to provide resources at short notice.
ebpdn.org is a useful resource, but needs further development, and members should make more effort to sign up and post materials. More frequent newsletter with less content would be a better way of maintaining interest. Useful recommendations were made on how to improve the site.
We need to include a wider range of partners and members in the network, develop regional sub-groups, and undertake a systematic mapping of organizational capacity to encourage collaboration.
We need to make a concerted effort to raise more funds by identifying potential donors, and approaching them in the best way.
ODI to send draft report and evaluation form to participants as soon as possible.
ODI to launch on-line discussion about Phase 3 as soon as possible.
ODI to clarify M&E requirements as soon as possible.
ACHA will finalise a proposal for the Africa Network and send it to ODI asap.
ODI to develop the ebpdn website to include a map of member agencies, more information on funders, and more discussion forums. Participants to make more effort to contribute material and comments in the forums.
ODI's Third Annual CSPP Partners Meeting was held from 26-28 November 2007 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in conjunction with CEPA's 8th Annual Symposium on Poverty Research in Sri Lanka (29-30 November 2007). The event provided the opportunity for dialogue and networking between partners in which progress of the programme so far and its future direction will be discussed. The participants shared experience of communicating for influencing policy processes in general but especially on projects supported by the programme.