Partnerships for scale and impact: lessons from ECLT experience

SDG 17 calls for partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. In practice, however, many partnerships fail. Here are four lessons that we have learnt about developing partnerships for scale and impact.

1. Partnerships are relationships:

Developing a successful partnership is like building a relationship that is open to change over time. At the outset, discussions may focus on shared hopes for establishing a partnership relationship. However, the reality is that at the beginning of the relationship both parties may be cautious as to whether their commitments can and will match up. Partnerships tend to strengthen with time and experience as institutions gain trust and build bonds. Realising this from the start can help both sides set realistic and long-term expectations.

2. Contracts are never really done:

Many of the problems that partners face are understandable but preventable provided that both sides are open to discuss, negotiate and come to an agreement. However, the relationship between the partners may still run up against unanticipated problems. It is important to recognise that this can happen and leave room to take stock along the way. Engaging in frank and open discussions and being open to re-negotiation of some aspects of the agreement can help partnerships achieve their goals.

3. Focus on the partnership to get better results:

As donors, we exert enormous pressure on our implementing partners to show results and impact. This is understandable given the resources and trust we invest in partnerships. However, to really make a sustainable change for children, farmers and their communities, it is equally important that we dedicate enough time to get the partnership itself right.
By putting effort into the partnership thorough the agreement and monitoring the performance of the relationship, ECLT has seen better results.

4. For sustainability, begin with the end in mind:

It is one thing for an implementing partner to tick all the boxes, delivering agreed outputs and outcomes. It is quite another, however, to ensure that the positive impact of the partnership outlives the contract. Therefore, the partnership must include some institutional capacity building, for one or both of the partners. This means seeing the partnership not as a means, which can evolve, rather than as an end.

ECLT’s Partnerships Model:

Partnerships enable ECLT to reach more children at a lower cost, work in more and larger geographical locations, build local capacity and maximise on local knowledge than would be possible with direct implementation. Since 2002, ECLT has partnered with governments, trade unions, local and international NGOs in over 10 countries.
Child labour is a complex problem requiring a collective response, therefore partnership and coalition building is an important element of the ECLT programme approach. We believe that sustained impact can only be achieved when local institutions and people are supported to take responsibility and shape their own futures.

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