During three months (November 2011 – January 2012) FSAS took over the role as WASH coordinator for ICCO. WASH is the young Alliance working in the field of Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, since early 2011. WASH is composed of 6 Dutch organizations (ICCO, AMREF, SIMAVI, RAIN, WASTE and AKVO), that implements in 8 countries (Africa and Asia) a WASH programme jointly with southern partners. Moreover, six thematic organisations render technical support to this programme.
The role of FSAS focused on two main areas:
- Thematic expertise in the water sector
- Alliance management
The following experiences are worth sharing:
- Managing the diversity of members
Each member of the alliance has an added value that needs to be recognized and understood by the other members. Members have different histories, scope and size of operations, degree of specialization and speak their own language. Managing this diversity does not come easily and misunderstandings and confusion quickly emerge, especially in an initial stage of the alliance. FSAS successfully mediated the challenge of collaboration between diverse members in one specific country. This clearly demonstrated that alliance management has both hard as well as soft components. Not everything can be captured in procedures and formats, but relation management is just as important to tackle the softer components of working together in an Alliance.
- Reality check
Often a strong tendency exists to develop and suggest new tools, concepts, methods, intended to improve performance of southern partners. Also the WASH alliance demonstrated this tendency. Working in an alliance may even strengthen this tendency as each member desires to contribute something according to its own added value or specialization. FSAS made a strong plea for a different approach by first checking the reality on the ground. FSAS argued that in reality southern partners may often already apply (parts or elements of) such tools or methods, knowingly or unknowingly, but as their documentation and reporting are often weak, this use remains invisible. FSAS made a proposal to conduct first a reality check with selected partners, bringing in required technical experts and make a joint assessment of field reality and learn from this. Only thereafter a proper assessment can be made of what is still required in terms of new tools and concepts to improve current performance. This ‘reality check’ principle has been accepted.
- FIETS sustainability concept
The WASH alliance has elaborated a very interesting sustainability concept: FIETS, an acronym which in Dutch means ‘bike’, a sustainable means of transport. This FIETS concept has even drawn the attention of the Dutch parliament that accepted this as an appropriate framework for sustainability. FIETS actually means that the total sustainability of a WASH project has five components: Financial, Institutional, Environmental, Technical and Social sustainability. Each intervention must be judged on those five key components. This concept applied to WASH is still work in progress and FSAS has contributed to an update of the institutional sustainability paragraph.
The role and contribution of FSAS
FSAS was able to play diverse roles, exploring different ways to improve the overall performance of the WASH alliance:
- focusing at the roles and contributions of the other alliance members, as well as on the ICCO role, thus taking a helicopter view;
- taking various initiatives in a pro-active way;
- bringing in the combined experiences and knowledge of alliance processes and of WASH sector;
- replying to concrete questions of persons and looking for creative solutions;
- building relations with other Alliance members.
What's your experience in alliance management? Please let us know and write your experiences at the bottom of this blog.