Partners workshop in Laos - towards a strategic partnership for sustainable development
Partnerships workshop in Laos
Oxfam in Laos’s annual partners workshop is an opportunity for reflection, exchange and learning.
Each year the agenda shifts according to emerging issues and themes and partners are encouraged to get involved in the conceptualization, preparation and management of what is essentially their workshop.
This year’s partners workshop took place on 21-22 May 2018 in Vientiane. The main objectives were to enable a platform for Oxfam and partners to network and strengthen their mutual understanding; to reflect and discuss current ways of working in order to enhance quality and effective collaboration; and to learn and exchange good partnering experience and practices.
It followed quick on the heels of Oxfam’s Country Strategy (OCS) mid-term review (completed in January 2018) and an internal Oxfam workshop on strategic partnership facilitated by Partnership Brokers Association (PBA) in March 2018. It was therefore a good opportunity for the Oxfam country team to reflect on the findings of the review together with their partners, and discuss ways to strengthen the quality of partnerships, be more innovative and strategic, enhance mutual accountability and ensure effective delivery of results.
Twenty-four partners joined the workshop and it was a fruitful event in terms of providing the chance to all parties to get to know each other, exchange experience and discuss the partners’ expectations of Oxfam. Perhaps most importantly, it allowed Oxfam to listen and understand things from the partners’ perspective which is crucial for long term collaboration and development of a sustainable partnership strategy.
One of the most important sessions centered on the benefits and challenges of working in partnership with Oxfam. It was commonly felt that there was added strength and effectiveness in working together and that partnering with Oxfam presents an opportunity for joint advocacy, shared knowledge, capacity development and access to a larger network.
Later sessions focused on a core set of principles of partnership which had previously been discussed at the Oxfam internal workshop in March; namely openness, equity, mutual accountability, mutual benefits, diversity, courage and commitment. These principles were presented to the participants to get their feedback about how they relate to their experience of partnership with Oxfam to date. The principles which most resonated – and which may be emphasized in future partnerships - were equity, openness and mutual accountability. The workshop culminated in a discussion of critical success factors whereby participants agreed on their respective roles and responsibilities and areas of joint action.
From the partners and Oxfam’s perspective there is now a clearer vision on how to make the partnership principles real and move towards a new model of sustainable partnership. A representative from PADETC, a long-lasting Oxfam partner, expressed that “we learned more regarding the essential and key highlights of being partners and why it’s needed for the sustainability of organizations as it brings out the diversities, skills and knowledge from all sides in order to achieve our target goals”.
This workshop is one step more in the commitment of Oxfam to work more closely with partners, building on respective expertise for strategic and respectful partnership.