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FIP 95: The ingredients of an effective government partnership with Ruth Ngechu of Living Goods

This interview will help you put yourself into the shoes of government so you can work with them effectively. Ruth Ngechu is the Deputy Country Director in charge of partnership with Living Goods in Kenya. Ruth shares her strategies and tactics she’s developed over the course of her 17+ year career working in Public Health, which includes some time within the Ministry of Health

On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • A different engagement strategy is needed in every county or district you work in, because each one has their own policies and priorities. They’re like separate governments. Ruth’s role is to understand policy frameworks to make sure Living Goods approach is aligned in each county.
  • When Ruth was in government, and NGOs would make requests for collaboration, Ruth would look for support to help them execute some of the initiatives they had going on, since government budgets were quite thin.
  • Governments have their own priorities and agendas. When you approach government you have to align your approach with them. So first thing to do is to find out their needs and priorities. Because government only supports the things that they think are contributing to their priorities.
  • A bad example of an organisation approaching government is when they come with a ready made plan that does not align with the needs of the government.
  • Living Goods’ model has evolved. A key reason for this is the changing priorities and capacity of government.
  • Living Goods’ tailor their program to the needs of the government. For example, in one county, the government is paying a good stipend to their community health workers, so Living Goods provides other support.
  • Champions are needed to support an effective partnership with government. Ruth stresses the need for champions within technical departments but also from elected leaders. If you don’t build several good relationships, your programme could be seen as a political initiative and your support stops when the elected leadership changes.
  • Investing in time is also important. You can’t try to go faster than government – this is a recipe for disaster. So invest time into building the relationship.
  • Also take stock of the government level of preparedness (i.e. their capacity or level of skills and experience) to ensure it is adequate to engage. So this needs to be understood: what their priorities are, what infrastructure is in place, and the capacity of the infrastructure (like HR support).
  • Ruth recommends we need to listen more and let government move at their pace. Invest time in co-creating projects that address the needs of government.
  • NGOs and social enterprises sometimes see each other as competitors, competing for the same resources and attention of government. They need to speak and work out ways of collaborating, to support government in the best possible way, by leveraging each others strengths, and work together.
  • Ruth urges all NGOs and social enterprises to support systems strengthening, so for example, helping government to establish policy frameworks. This is essential for sustainability as well, since without these strong systems in place, the work of the NGO or social enterprise can easily be undone when leaders change.

Links to resources

Connect with Ruth

FIP 94: Scaling Partnerships with Government, Shannon May of Bridge International Academies

Today we speak with Shannon May about scaling partnerships with government, in order to help you understand if this is the right option for your social enterprise, ie. doing the outsource model of government partnerships, which Erin Worsham in the last episode (FIP 93) introduced us to. Shannon is Chief Strategy & Development Officer and Co-Founder of Bridge International Academies. They provide a range of at-scale services for teachers, students, schools, and governments, and have reached over half a million people now. We are going to talk about some of the different partnerships they have with governments, particularly Nigeria and Liberia.

On this episode you will learn:

  • About the Education World Forum, a large conference hosted by DFID and the British Council, which is a critically important place once you start trying to work and support governments, reform, and problem solving for them.
    • There are more than 100 ministers participating in the event.
    • It is important to think what are probably the 2 to 3 places/conferences you should be a year where the actual people you’re trying to serve, and the actual decision makers are going to be present, and having conversations about what works and what doesn’t. (But you do need to pick carefully since not all conferences are created equal.)
  • Since no one government is facing the exact same problem, Bridge International Academies deals with a lot of specificity and their intervention design is very much tailored to what the government asks for and where they think they are best suited.
  • To do careful mapping across all countries in which you already work or think have a need for your programming, and do some in-depth work on the politics of those places.
    • Understand who are the champions, who are the reformers, who are the people who are willing to take risks and make bold decisions.
    • Take a look at their ministry of finance–have they already done any procurement, any sort of public private partnership where they have procured private services to support a public need?
    • Do a full mapping and then it’s highly likely that one or two places come to the top of your list, and then it’s about finding a political champion.
  • It’s really important that there is an elected leader who wants to make change for their population, and sees the importance of providing services to the public and feels that need for responsive (often comes through being elected). Shannon gives an example of their Liberia partnership.
  • To understand your cost and what is within the realm of possibilities within a government budget.
  • It is possible to get public institutions providing public services on the road to better services and better quality outcomes earlier by this blend of different finance sources.
  • What are the one or two things social entrepreneurs should have if they are looking to government partnerships through outsourcing or different partnerships.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Shannon:

FIP 93: Scaling Pathways with Erin Worsham of CASE, Duke University

This week we’re kicking off a three-part series on how social enterprises can partner with governments to achieve greater scale and impact. We’re talking with Erin Worsham, Executive Director of the award-winning Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Erin shares her views and insights from the Scaling Pathways research study around scaling impact through government partnerships. The Scaling Pathways study, of which Erin is the lead author, surveyed over 100 social enterprises to understand the hardest barriers and challenges encountered by social enterprises and gathered cross-cutting lessons and best practices to shed light on how to overcome those barriers and challenges.

On this podcast, you will learn:

  • Why working with governments has been identified as one of the key challenges for scaling impact by social enterprises. The Scaling Pathways study focused on uncovering some of the best practices and lessons from 11 social enterprises across geographies and sectors, such as VillageReach, Partners in Health, Code for America, and Pratham, to name a few.
  • Why as a first step, it is critical for social enterprises to set their vision for engaging with governments and define clear goals of the partnership and why funding from governments, while important, shouldn’t be the key driving goal for social enterprises.
  • What are the 4 recommended government partnership goals and the roles that social enterprises need to play in meeting these goals:
    1. Clear the path: engaging with governments to seek informal permission or permits and avoiding potential barriers.
    2. Outsourcing: having the government partners outsource the delivery of a certain product/ service through a contract.
    3. Adoption: working with the government partners to transition or transfer the management of a service or solution over a period.
    4. Change policy: influencing the government to change policies, allocate resources or change regulations.
  • Why social enterprises need to adapt their staffing based on the needs of the government partnership. Having local staff who understand the local context and who ideally have already existing established relationships with the governments, is critical to having a successful social enterprise-government partnership. Erin talks about specific examples from NGOs such as WSUP and Village Reach that have adapted their staffing model to address local contexts, government relationship management, and leadership to influence policy change.
  • Why it is important for social enterprises to know when to start engaging with government partners, i.e. start with a fully formed solution based on evidence that it works (building and proving the model first) or start with an idea of building together with the government? Build first or build together?
  • Finally, we look at the risks and challenges that could become stumbling blocks for social enterprises while engaging with governments, such as slow pace of government, political and leadership change, corruption, decrease in impact, etc., and how should social enterprises deal with such challenges or mitigate the occurrences of such risks.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Erin: