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Partnership Lessons from an NPI Project in Tanzania

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Tanzanian woman wearing a face mask operates a sewing machine
Photo credit: USAID
Oct 20, 2022

USAID’s New Partnerships Initiative (NPI) supports projects that engage new partners. The NPI EXPAND project is a five-year project working with new and local partners to expand education and health around the world. The project recently shared some lessons learned about their work in Tanzania. Below, we have excerpted some key lessons that could be relevant for other new partnerships.  

The full article was originally posted on the NPI EXPAND project site.


Community-Level Response to COVID-19 in Tanzania: Lessons Learned

The New Partnerships Initiative (NPI) Expanding Health Partnerships—NPI EXPAND Project—is a global five-year (2019-2024) U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project that supports locally-driven efforts to increase the availability and utilization of high-quality health and education services. In line with USAID’s local capacity development strategy, NPI EXPAND invests in new and underutilized local partners (NUPs) and strengthens their capacity to strategize, plan, and implement programs with USAID funds.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Tanzania, NPI EXPAND implemented a grants program that supported three new and underutilized local partner NGOs for about 6-8 months from July 2020-April 2021: Mwanza Outreach Care and Support Organization (MOCSO), Network Against Female Genital Mutilation (NAFGEM), and Pastoral Activities and Services to People with AIDS Dar es Salaam Archdiocese (PASADA). The three NGOs supported 25 WORTH Yetu community groups to add to their income generating activities by producing, promoting, and selling non-medical masks and sanitation products (liquid soap, hand sanitizer). 

The NGOs also supported the groups to implement risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) activities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. The WORTH Yetu Groups, composed of caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), operate as self-help groups engaged in income-generating activities, with the secondary goal of assisting orphaned and vulnerable children in their communities using funds they generate from their activities. NPI EXPAND also provided a subaward to T-MARC Tanzania to support the WORTH Yetu groups in business planning and social marketing of respective masks and sanitation products. 

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The following is a compilation of lessons learnt and success stories from the COVID-19 response activities implemented by the WORTH Yetu Groups.

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The fixed amount award mechanism creates a greater incentive to achieve timely results, but the model must be negotiated with external factors in mind

NPI EXPAND awarded MOCSO, NAFGEM, and PASADA fixed amount awards (FAAs) to support the production and sale of non-medical face masks and liquid soap through WORTH Yetu groups, and to implement RCCE activities aimed at reducing the transmission and spread of COVID-19 in Tanzania. The partners received agreed-upon sums under this funding model based on completion of milestones. While this system was novel to NAFGEM and PASADA, it was somewhat familiar to MOSCO. All organizations agreed that the FAA gave a greater incentive to complete all project requirements on time to avoid cash-flow difficulties caused by delayed or denied disbursements.

All three groups have extensive experience working with USAID-funded programs. This experience was critical in enabling them to meet USAID and NPI EXPAND’s administrative and programmatic requirements. The organizations’ executives also stated that adhering to FAA rules would be extremely difficult for local organizations with no USAID expertise.

Risks

The FAA mechanism must take into consideration external factors that are beyond individual partners’ control. For example, if partners are interdependent in meeting project objectives, any delays in achieving a particular milestone by one partner may have a domino effect on other partners’ milestones and related payments. Some deliverables under the NPI EXPAND project for which PASADA, MOCSO, and NAFGEM were responsible were contingent on T-MARC completing their branding and training deliverables. This was mentioned as a possible risk at the start of the project, but it was addressed during implementation when biweekly partner meetings were introduced in the second quarter of the project which allowed the partners to align their activities and avoid delays.

A high degree of coordination and frequent contact between partners in a multi-partner initiative promotes cross-learning and replication of best practices

MOSCO, PASADA, and NAFGEM, the local partners, each held activities with the selected WORTH Yetu groups in their regions, while T-MARC conducted activities with all groups in the three regions. Since all activities contributed to overall project objectives, continuous communication was required to ensure that the sequencing of activities and minimum quality criteria were agreed upon. Biweekly partner meetings were initiated a few months after project implementation, which played an important role in strengthening project coordination.

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Partnerships that maximize organizations’ unique strengths deliver great value to local communities

MOCSO, PASADA, and NAFGEM, are all organizations rooted in their communities. Their local presence gives them extensive local expertise, which was vital to the success of the NPI EXPAND project. T-MARC, a national organization, has significant expertise in business and marketing of health products, which needed to be translated into different contexts with local partners. Their inclusion in the project enabled the application of standard practices in marketing and business management. NPI EXPAND’s engagement (through Palladium, an international firm) helped ensure that the project was adequately resourced, managed and monitored to help ensure its success. Each organization in this partnership had a distinct strength that, when coupled with the strengths of the other companies, resulted in a strong alliance. This setup exemplified mutual accountability and collaboration, values that are emphasized in USAID’s localization agenda.

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Read the full article here.

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