Thematic Evaluation of Save the Children Norway's Cooperation with Partners – Nicaragua Case Study
Background This evaluation of Save the Children Norway’s (SCN) approach to cooperating with partners in Nicaragua forms part of a broader study that aims to identify evidence of impact and lessons learnt that can inform the future partnership policy of SCN and possibly that of SC International. Purpose/objective The purpose of this evaluation was to provide an insight into SCN’s work with partners, build learning and ensure accountability, by studying the practices in Nicaragua:1. Providing evidence of impact of SC in Nicaragua’s cooperation with partners.2. Reviewing implementation and documenting good practices.3. Providing recommendations for future partnership cooperation, both in SCN and SCI. Methodology The evaluation is based on interviews with Save the Children Nicaragua staff, and a sample of eighteen current and former partners, including one current SC Spain funded partnership and one funded by SC Canada. In addition, four focus groups and one workshop were held with children and adolescents. Key findings The relationship with SCN has historically been highly appreciated by partners. In addition to a general approach reflecting mutual respect, trust and openness, partners also pointed out the holistic and strategic approach of the relationship, a flexibility and openness to change approach and a strong commitment by SCN to facilitating linkages and spaces for coordination amongst the partners. SCN was known amongst various partners for its robust and demanding requirements regarding financial accountability, which was particularly appreciated by some. Several partners referred to SCN as having been the key actor for building sector-wide awareness and capacity. Child-led organizations have themselves expressed a desire to be treated as direct partners.The ‘accompaniment’ approach of formal and informal consultation mechanisms has been the key to a successful partnership. It was quoted by one partner as facilitating the dialogue and enabled them to be frank and honest about the difficulties or challenges they were facing and not hiding them for fear of losing support. During the most intense period of transition (2008 to early 2010) the quality of follow up was reduced considerably, but this deterioration is currently being addressed.The more recently introduced reporting formats have been experienced by many partners as somewhat restrictive, limiting their expression of achievements, reflection on the methods and processes involved and identification of internal capacity changes. There is a need for a tailored instrument to systematically monitor and evaluate the capacity building efforts. Also, the development of exit strategies is an area that needs more attention. There has been little practice of discussing timeframes for partnerships, nor of identifying how SCN might support the partner during any eventual exiting from the partnership. Recommendations - reviewing some elements of the selection and project development process, including the use of competitive tendering and the process of defining indicators of results- seeking to reinforce partner reporting on qualitative changes and lessons learnt- strengthening partner capacity building through the development of a strategic framework- developing a strategic approach to core alliances such as with Plan Nicaragua and UNICEF- investing in systematizing certain key partnership experiences- SCI to ensure full discussion amongst Members on the strengths and weaknesses of different implementation models, and the agreement on indicators or criteria for establishing country implementation frameworks which can guide decision making about working in partnership, self-implementation or co-implementation. Comments and follow-up from the organisation, if any Follow up rests both on SC in Nicaragua, SCN and SC international. SC in Nicaragua explored some of the findings in this evaluation further in their mid term review in 2012, and have focused follow up and actions into their 2013 plan.