Working In Clusters; Capitalizing & Optimizing

Imagine an NGO in Nigeria working on female education connects with a more experienced one that runs a similar project in Eritrea. So much value can be added through co-learning and info-sharing besides increasing both parties’ chances for receiving funding if they joined forces in one project.

Another example could be the infrastructure projects that are funded often by governmental development aid agencies. The consolidations of some operations, like tenders, procurement, quality control, training… etc could save millions of dollars and speed up execution.

Thousands of aid and development projects are carried out world wide whether by NGOs or ODA agencies. Yet, many of them are reinventing the wheel or wasting resources by working in silos instead of fusing with similar endeavors somewhere else that are tackling similar issues.

I think aid professionals should realize the urgency of working together beyond amicable connections, panels discussions and applauding each others’ presentations in conferences. Building clusters of NGOs which whether work in the same region or in the same field is quite value adding considering the complexity of operations nowadays. A cluster could support with fund raising, lobbying at governments, developing common data bases, collaborative learning, staffing and joint-engagements.

However, there are some challenges to the formation of these clusters that discourage their formations. For instance: misalignment of strategies, lack of trust trust, communication barriers, difficulty of role distribution, conflict of interests or lack of exposure and connectivity from the first place.

I believe that the easiest starting point to go over these hurdles is to use conferences and workshops as opportunities for planning collaboration, clearing misconceptions and building synergies between different organizations. Moreover, larger donors and funding agencies should start demanding and promoting the concept of clusters to encourage NGOs to work closely in order to save resources and achieve large-scale results more efficiently.

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