Skip to content
The Innovation Process
Activity 5.1 C

Review partnerships

This activity is intended to help you think through your partnerships and your different needs, roles and responsibilities in the Pilot stage, and to understand how your relationship with partners might need to change as your journey continues.

Partnerships Review

At each stage of your journey, you will find that partners are required to play different roles. Ahead of your pilot, it is important to take stock of your partnership requirements and commitments. In the previous stages, you may have involved creative partners to develop your idea, but for your pilot you may need to work with more delivery-focused partners. It may be that you need to end old partnerships and form new ones.

If you and your team are not part of a humanitarian organisation, the likelihood is that you will need to work with an operational partner in order to pilot your innovation in a humanitarian environment. This is both from a feasibility and logistics perspective, and also to ensure that your team includes the experience necessary to operate responsibly. They will also be key in enabling you to obtain the relevant permissions from local authorities.

At this point it is useful to carry out a review to understand whether your current partnerships should continue, and if so, what the nature of those partnerships should be for this next stage of the journey. The key is to ensure that all parties in a partnership have realistic and agreed expectations regarding the partnership. There are three steps to the review. Due to the operational nature of the pilot, we pay particular attention to operational partner selection in the final step.

Step 1: With your team, review current partners and partnership needs for the pilot, identifying your strategy for each existing and potential partner

Step 2: Carry out a joint review with current partners to identify whether you need to transition out of the partnership, or if the partnership is to continue, to establish new goals, and revise your partnership agreements. If it is a bi-lateral partnership, carry it out together, if it is a multi-stakeholder partnership ensure that all of the partners are involved.

A note of caution: when managing partnerships in the transition from the Invent to Pilot stage there is the potential for problems with your organisation’s internal procurement processes. These processes (or external donor requirements) might require you to re-tender for partners for this new stage. Make sure that you understand your organisation’s (or donor) requirements and explore how much flexibility you have.

Step 3: It may be that you also need to form new partnerships. If you require an operational partner, it is recommended that you first ensure you are identifying the right potential partner. Key questions to ask include:

  1. Are they registered to operate?
  2. Are they already operational in the geographical area you are planning to work in?
  3. Do they already work with the users or target group your innovation is seeking to support?
  4. Do they have an understanding of the sector or thematic area you are working in?
  5. Do they demonstrate commitment to best practice regarding humanitarian standards and principles?

As part of agreeing goals and objectives for the partnership, we recommend that you work through the Humanitarian Parameters exercise with them, and the operations checklist below to develop a shared understanding of the overall context for deployment and the operational requirements.

See also

Partner and collaborate with others

Further inspiration

Elrha, Guide to Effective Partnerships
A guide to support collaboration between humanitarian and academic organisations based on the experiences and lessons learned by people in both communities.

L Potter, I Gray, P Masters, Does MSF need a more intelligent/empathetic approach to partnerships?
A position paper aiming to stimulate a reflective conversation about how MSF approaches partnerships in its innovation work.