Empowering Development? Assessing the Impact of NGO-NGO-Community Partnerships on Capacity Development
Tozier de la Poterie, A.S.
MetadataShow full item record
Despite the proliferation of partnerships for sustainable development, relatively little is known about their effectiveness or about the impact they have on the communities they serve. This study focused on the impact of a partnership between two NGOs that partner to deliver water and electricity to poor, rural communities in Nicaragua: Green Empowerment, in the United States, and AsoFénix, in Nicaragua. Through their collaboration, these two organizations attempt to develop and increase capacities at each NGO and to build capacity in local communities so that they are able to independently manage the infrastructure provided by the Partnership. Criteria for determination of impact were identified in the Partnership’s policy theory and in literature on capacity building, partnership, and community management of natural resources. The Partnership’s impact on the individual, organizational, and network levels of capacity was evaluated separately for the two NGOs and for four case study communities. In accordance with important aspects of partnerships identified in the literature, this study also evaluated the impact of the Partnership resulting from exploitation of comparative advantage and the impact of the Partnership on independence at AsoFénix. Results indicate that the Partnership has had a high degree of impact on capacity building at the individual and network levels of NGO capacity by increasing access to funds, promoting the exchange of technical knowledge, and increasing network ties. The Partnership has also provided gains in efficiency related to community organizing and communication with certain donors and manufacturers. The Partnership was not found to have had significant impact on organizational capacities or the enabling environment. By providing initial financing and technical support but allowing AsoFénix to expand and develop financial, technical, and network ties beyond the Partnership, the Partnership has avoided creating dependence, which was identified as a risk in the partnership literature. Comparison of the four case study communities revealed that the Partnership’s impact on community capacity to manage projects independently has been low. Despite the existence of new rules and committees dedicated to management of the systems, the communities have limited financial and technical resources, weak monitoring and accountability systems, and little ability to manage conflict. As a result, the communities remain dependent upon AsoFénix for on-going support. The implications of are these findings, including suggestions for future research and preliminary policy recommendations, are discussed in the conclusion and appendices.