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Consultancy: Review of Partnership Approach

Terms of Reference
Managing partnerships in Plan International
27th March 2012

1. Purpose

Plan International is inviting proposals from experienced consultants to develop practical recommendations for how Plan can manage partnerships systematically across our programme work.

The study will involve (a) identifying a strategic sub-set of types of partnerships with external organisations that are of particular importance in our work and (b) developing feasible options for how Plan can manage those relationships systematically. Both aspects of the study will build on current practice within Plan, for instance identifying good practices, strengths and blockages in how Plan currently manages partnerships, as the basis for making practical recommendations for staff.
The study will take a pragmatic approach, actively identifying choices about priorities and systems, rather than aiming to cover all types of partnership in all circumstances.

2. Background

Plan has made a clear commitment to working in partnership with others in our current organisational strategy (“One Goal, One Plan”) and defines partnership as a central aspect of Child Centred Community Development (Plan’s Programme Guide, Promoting Child Rights to End Child Poverty).

Plan has already carried out foundational work that describes the concept of partnership. (See “A Framework for Partnerships” 2003.) This sets out a variety of different kinds of partnerships with different kinds of organisations for different reasons. The reasons vary from instrumental (e.g. asking partners to do things that Plan cannot or chooses not to do) to developmental (e.g. building local capacity as a contribution to development aims; and building Plan’s own capacity).

Plan works in 50 different countries and many different contexts, each of which has a major bearing on the possibilities of working in partnership. Staff are pulled in many different directions within the organisation, for instance by the demands of sponsorship, commitments to different funders, strategic priorities, and externally to many different stakeholders. Staff are also aware of the many different risks associated with partnership, ranging from preventing responsive programme work and undermining partners’ management to legal and reputational risks for all involved.

Global Assurance has recently found that Plan’s approach to partnership varies substantially between Country Offices. Many examples of good practice exist and many different tools have been developed. But staff do not have a consistent understanding of the purposes of partnership. Nor do they have consistent management systems and processes to put that understanding into practice. As a result, staff are sometimes left with inappropriate tools and struggle to ensure that, in practice, partnerships reflect Plan’s aims and values.

Plan is now aiming to develop a practical and coherent approach to putting the concept of partnership into practice.

This will involve making choices about specifically how and when to develop certain types of partnership –rather than aiming to cover all potential partnerships everywhere.
It will also involve engaging with the realities of how staff and management systems work in Plan. All recommendations will need to be based on a realistic understanding of what can be promoted, managed and overseen in a reasonably consistent way.
The recommendations will be used as the basis for an organisation-wide policy on partnership, which will set standards, encourage learning and be used as the basis for consistent management action.

3. Major steps

This study will make recommendations about how Plan should put the principle of partnership into practice. It will comprise the following steps:

1.Review existing documented material on partnerships in Plan.
2.Review related practice by other NGOs and in other sectors.
3.Based on steps (1) and (2), identify around 3 - 5 practical options for how Plan could implement the concept of partnership in practice. The options will be ‘straw man’ choices that Plan could make based on the different goals and practicalities of partnership, each covering two areas:
•Proposing choices about which types of partnership are priorities to pursue in which circumstances.
•Proposing choices about management systems and processes required at different levels of the organisation to implement different types of partnership to consistent standards / principles.
4.Testing analysis and options with staff at all levels, including identifying priorities, constraints, opportunities and specific actions for improvement.
•This may include a mixture of workshops, phone interviews and surveys. The budget for the study includes two field visits to Plan Country Offices plus one Regional Office. Field work may be conducted by a locally based consultant.
•Staff should be asked to comment on the practical issues that encourage / discourage partnership (such as competing priorities and systems), as well as priorities in the light of wider management issues and ways of tackling current issues.
•Staff should also be asked to review the emerging analysis and options.
5.Recommendations of the strengths and weaknesses of a revised set of clearly defined and practical options for how Plan could manage a defined sub set of partnerships, substantiated by internal and external evidence. Recommendations and analysis should be summarised in a short report of 20 pages, which comprises the major deliverable from this study.

The process will be supported by an advisory group, comprising a mixture of staff from Country Offices, Regional Offices, International Headquarters and National Offices.

4. Indicative timeline

a) Application and Appointment of consultant(s)
By 30 April 2012/11 May 2012
b) Review Plan material & other NGOs’ / sectors’ practice (including initial interviews & briefing)
By End June 2012
c) Discuss draft options at a workshop in Woking
By End June 2012
d) Field visits and interviews
By end July 2012
e) Final report of max 20 pages + appendices
(including one round of revisions on a complete draft)By End August 2012


5. Indicative budget

The indicative budget for this work is based on 4 weeks desk-based work + 2 weeks field work + costs + overheads. This is estimated at a total of approximately £20,000.

6. Consultant specification

•Excellent knowledge of international NGO operations, including management and programme realities.
•Excellent understanding of the practical and theoretical basis of partnership for development.
•Very strong facilitation skills
•Excellent analytical skills and insight into practical management practices.
•Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
•Fluent English. Working knowledge of French or Spanish is an advantage.
•Strong project management skills.
•Strong understanding of Plan International is an advantage.
•Demonstrable commitments to helping NGOs strengthen their management systems.

7. Appointment Process

Please submit a 3 page proposal setting out:
•how you meet the consultant specification, including relevant previous experience,
•how you would conduct the process outlined above, ensuring it is highly effective,
•any comments on the process and objectives,
•a summary budget and your expected starting / completion dates.

Please attach a CV of the lead consultant(s) who will carry out the work.

All proposals should be submitted by email by 5pm on Monday April 30th to:

Elsebeth Elo, elsebeth.elo@plan.international.org
Programme Effectiveness Officer
Plan International Headquarters
Woking, UK

We aim to interview a shortlist of candidates in the two weeks following April 30th and make an appointment by the May 11th 2012.

Organisation Plan

Country United Kingdom