Principles for Design & Development

Community Insights on Principle 9: Be Collaborative

icon-principle9“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This African proverb should be a mantra for technology-enabled development projects, yet to date, examples of successful and sustainable collaborative efforts are few and far between. Principle 9: Be Collaborative provides insights into leveraging and contributing to a broader commons of resources, action, and knowledge to extend the impact of development interventions.

What It Means

  • Engage diverse expertise across disciplines and industries at all stages.
  • Work across sector silos to create coordinated and more holistic approaches.
  • Document work, results, processes and best practices and share them widely.
  • Publish materials under a Creative Commons license by default, with strong rationale if another licensing approach is taken.

Case Study

Recognizing that development outcomes are complex, and that current models are not sustainable, a group of nongovernmental, foundations, and consulting firms have created the Locus Initiative to drive the adoption of local solutions and more integrated development practices. Through shared research, pilot projects, global forums, academic courses, and a virtual knowledge hub, an initial group of seven Locus partners are working to support increased local ownership of project design and implementation; cross-sector integration in the development and implementation of programs; and sharing of measurement and evaluation frameworks and outcomes to better understand what works.

Community Insights

  • Competition can be both a barrier to and a catalyst for collaboration.
  • Managing competition toward collaboration requires sufficient investment in supporting people, processes, and policies.
  • More well-tested tools and strategies are needed to supplement the high-level guidance and anecdotes that are the most common sources of good practice on collaboration in tech-supported development work.
  • Collaboration can take a variety of formats, from defaulting to open standards, data, and platforms, to engaging in partnerships within a sector or across sectors.

Identify Common Barriers

  • Collaboration requires identifying and overcoming a variety of potential barriers, including conflicting financial incentives, organizational constraints, and engrained practice.
  • Collaboration requires time and trust, two valuable commodities that are difficult to build into programs with short funding cycles.
  • S. government (USG) funding allocated by Congress is assigned earmarks that constrain how money can be spent. This becomes a major determinant of USG-funded development program design.
  • The Inspector General and auditors of USG funding expenditures currently measure against proposals submitted before program activity is underway, making the adaptations that are frequently required of collaborative efforts difficult.
  • Collaboration must overcome barriers posed by the current design of the international development system, which is organized in silos.
  • Among donor and host governments and development practitioner organizations, few have dedicated offices, staff, or policies focused on integration.

Build Toward Collaboration

  • At the individual level, join the Principles for Digital Development Working Group; at an organizational level, endorse the Principles.
  • Leverage and contribute to the growing culture of open approaches to development, such as through the broad use of Creative Commons licensing.
  • Track and share work processes with a view toward enabling long-term project ownership by local or other stakeholders.
  • Share evaluation reports and lessons learned through formal channels like 3ie, and informal channels like Fail Faires or Fail Fests.
  • Join networks of likeminded partners to build relationships, and to contribute to and benefit from public knowledge commons.
  • Consider end users as key collaborators. Allow space and time to do deep assessments of end user needs, and design collaboratively with the user.
  • Use RFPs as an opportunity to identify how your approach will benefit from and contribute to collaborative efforts, from open data to partnerships.
  • Understand and address blockages within your organization that may hinder collaboration.
  • Invest in the organizational structure, communications protocol, time, and staff training that enable effective collaboration.
  • Articulate the business case for why information sharing and collaboration are useful, and write that into your project’s DNA.
  • Consider and address how lines of accountability may change in a collaboration.
  • In partnerships, identify the incentives of each stakeholder, remembering that each actor likely has a different set of incentives, and all actors are driven by both market and social incentives.
  • Make a personal commitment to being collaborative, especially where the international development architecture is not yet fully optimized for collaboration.

You can also download a PDF of the Community Discussion here.

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