Standard 11: Evidence based, action-oriented project management.
Make collaborative, timely, and informed decisions to ensure that project activities deliver intended impact to participants within the approved time, scope, and budget.
Proactively manage and review partner relationships.
CRS’ deep commitment to right relationships with those we serve, in collaboration with Church and secular organizations closest to those in need, results in partnerships that are essential to the success of CRS projects. With some project partners, CRS has existing organizational partnerships based on a long-term vision and shared commitment to promoting justice and peace. Other partnerships may be focused more narrowly around an individual project (an “implementing” or “functional” partnership, per CRS’ typologies of relationships). Whether CRS is working with a long-term partner or has established an implementing or functional partnership for a project, CRS follows agency partnership principles in our relationships with project partners. This includes proactively managing and reviewing partner relationships during project implementation.
Proactive management of the partner relationship throughout the life of the project:
- Enables better project management.
- Contributes to a healthy, collaborative CRS-partner relationship.
- Primary responsible: Project manager or chief of party (PM/CoP)
- The PM/CoP ensures a collaborative and productive project-level relationship with the partners, following CRS’ partnership principles.
- Others involved: Programming staff, including partnership point person (if one exists) and other project staff (project officers, project assistants); finance and other operations staff; country representative (CR); head of programming (HoP); head of operations (HoOps)
- Program, finance and other operations staff maintain routine interaction with partners and are first-line problem solvers;
- The CR, HoP and HoOps engage with partners around the overall partner relationship (for organizations with which CRS has a broader institutional partnership), as well as significant project-specific events, reflections, and more challenging project issues.
Leadership involvement in partnership management: While the PM/CoP is responsible for management of the project-specific partnership, CRS senior managers, particularly the CR and HoP, have important roles to play in partner-relationship management. The PM/CoP proactively engages leadership to ensure that management of project partnerships aligns with institutional relationship considerations and priorities, and that project-specific partnership activities support both project outcomes and effective partnership.
- Ongoing throughout project implementation.
- Annually for Partnership ScorecardThe Partnership Scorecard is a web-based tool that assist CRS and partners to identify major strengths and weaknesses in the partnership, and to use this data to improve the relationship. and Partnership Reflections (as needed and agreed).
Determining the most appropriate actions for effective management of partner project relationships, and when and how to take those actions, requires a process of discernment by the PM/CoP in coordination with senior managers and other project staff (see “Who” above), along with each partner organization. The following general steps provide guidance for PMs/CoPs; adapt these steps as required to meet the needs of the specific project and partnership contexts.
- The PM/CoP works with CRS program, finance, and other operations staff to establish mechanisms to effectively manage CRS’ relationships with project partners. These include:
- Frequent and consistent check-ins: How often and how you check in with partners regarding the project depends on the staff involved, each partner’s scope of work, and the partner’s organizational, operational, and cultural context. Decide, with partners, what type of regular communication is best for all parties and establish those communication mechanisms for staff.
- Regular meetings: These happen per the project timeline and often include field visits (see Standard 11, key action 3 for guidance).
- Formal partnership monitoring
- Deeper reflection/problem solving: PMs/CoPs work with country program senior management to engage partners around the following opportunities for deeper reflection:
- Completing the Partnership Scorecard is an opportunity for joint CRS and partner reflection and measurement of progress in partnership and capacity strengthening. Use of the Scorecard is stipulated in CRS’ agency strategy. As part of agency strategy implementation and recommended good practice, CRS completes the Partnership Scorecard annually with strategic and longer-term partners (note that the Scorecard can also be useful with other partner institutions, per CRS’ typologies of relationships).
- Partnership Reflections can be used at the beginning of a partnership to explore more deeply each partner’s identity, values, and work, and can be a very helpful way of getting a partnership off to a good start. Partnership Reflections are also helpful later in a relationship, to take a step back and look at the relationship more broadly, to see what’s going well and what might be strengthened. Partnership Reflections are not required but are strongly encouraged for new partnerships that CRS may initiate through a project but which have the potential to become longer-term, strategic relationships.
The Partnership Scorecard and Partnership Reflection are generally linked processes, as the Reflection includes a review of the Scorecard results. If there is not enough time for both, prioritize the Scorecard.
- Deeper reflections can also be organized at any point when a partnership is in trouble, as an opportunity to pause, listen to each other, and problem-solve together.
Engage leadership on partnership challenges: Involve appropriate CRS and partner senior leadership to resolve problems quickly. In conflict situations, request assistance from CRS partnership and/or peacebuilding specialists.
- The PM/CoP uses the project issues log (see Standard 11, key action 2 and issues log template for guidance) to track ongoing partnership issues and ensure institutional memory in case of turnover.
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- This action focuses exclusively on partners; see the "how" steps above.
- Follow the same process with any partners CRS may have when implementing a project as a sub-recipient to another organization.
- If the prime does not have its own system and approaches for managing partner relationships, CRS can suggest tools such as the Consortium Alignment Framework for Excellence (CAFE) and the CAFE Tutorial.
- As emergency projects are often implemented in high-stress situations, it’s especially important to ensure the project team includes staff with strong partnership skills.
- More frequent check-ins and meetings with partners may be required in emergency projects, given the dynamics of the emergency context, as well as the potential for changes in roles and responsibilities as the emergency response evolves.
Tools and templates
Partnership Scorecard and tutorial video guidance
Communication basics: An introduction to effective communication in partnership and capacity strengthening (Institute for Capacity Strengthening course)
CRSLearns online course: Partnership Basics: An Introduction to CRS’ Approach to Partnership
Relationship basics: How CRS staff relate to partners and approach capacity strengthening (Institute for Capacity Strengthening course)
- Primary responsible: Project manager or chief of party (PM/CoP)