Selection Process – Potential Partners
Maliasili Initiatives supports African organizations, primarily those based in East and Southern Africa, that have the potential to bring about transformative changes that benefit local communities, livelihoods, and ecosystem health in Africa. We are selective in who we work with, since we are making an investment of our time and resources in a given partner’s future impact and performance. We seek out organizations that are innovative, focused on achieving impact, and have an established track record or highly promising and unfilled niche with the potential to improve or scale up their impacts. We want to work with organizations that recognize the value of strengthening their organizations and that are willing and able to invest in the process.
Interested potential partners are expected to submit an expression of interest that details their interests in working with Maliasili Initiatives, based on their organizational needs and challenges, and provides Maliasili with initial information to help us assess the organization and its fit as a prospective partner.
Following the expression of interest, if Maliasili Initiatives deems the organization is a potential partner candidate, we will begin to engage in further discussions with the organization. This can take many forms, including in-person meetings, phone/skype conversations or email exchanges. We will also reach out through our networks to carry out due diligence on a prospective partner.
For each partner we complete a “Partner Selection Criteria Assessment,” which seeks to answer the following main questions:
Does this organization match Maliasili Initiatives’ basic strategic and impact criteria?
What are this organization’s main organizational capacity and development needs and challenges
Can Maliasili Initiatives effectively address those needs?
Support and Service Provision – Partners
Our partners come in different shapes and sizes, and at different stages in their own organizational evolutions. Some may have strong foundations in place and may need very specific support in one or two areas, whereas others may not yet have the same foundations and instead need a more intense and involved program of support. No matter what the situation, we meet our partners where they are at, helping them think through what they need, and working with them to put those pieces in place.
Once we select a new partner, we work with them to design a program of support that meets their needs, based on clear organizational development goals and outcomes. We make a long-term commitment to our partners, so we encourage them to prioritize their needs and not try to tackle everything at once, but instead to implement a phased approach to organizational strengthening.
At the beginning of a partnership, our support may be less structured, and our services may be identified through discussions and not necessarily through a formalized organizational assessment and planning process (as described below). We take this approach at times in order to build trust with partners and also because it helps us to learn more about a partner without having to make a significant investment upfront. In all cases, however, the most important first step to formalizing our partnership is through a jointly endorsed memorandum of understanding (MoU). The MoU includes the following:
- A partnership commitment and explanation of shared expectations
- Objectives of partnership
- Maliasili’s roles and responsibilities
- Our partner’s roles and responsibilities
- Reporting and information sharing expectations
- Resource commitments on both sides
We expect to have multiple MoUs with our partners, covering the different phases of our work with them over time and revised and adapted as conditions change.
In terms of resourcing, we approach our organizational strengthening work with our partners as a shared investment. We expect our partners to invest in co-financing the process, either through their own funds or through a third-party funders’ support. Our customized process takes account of resource constraints and availability and is designed and tailored accordingly.
Steps to designing a program of support:
Self-diagnostic organizational assessment – At the beginning of our partnership, this is done in full and we ask that all members of the senior management team (at least) participate in the assessment. Following that initial assessment, organizations may only need to review and revise the assessment on an annual basis as it will help them determine where we need to focus our attention.
Organizational Strengthening Plan – After a partner has completed an organizational assessment they work with Maliasili to develop an annual organizational strengthening plan (OSP), which sets out a clear work plan to tackle their main organizational strengthening priorities. This plan identifies areas where Maliasili will provide support, but we also encourage our partners to include any other initiatives or work that is aimed at strengthening their organization. The completed OSP is an important map and measurement tool for both our partner and for Maliasili in order to ensure we are making progress and achieving our targets. The OSPs are designed and used as a flexible instrument; they can focus on a particular priority or a broad set of needs and activities as the case may be.
Implementation – Following the timeline set out in the OSP, Maliasili Initiatives works with our partner to implement the program of organizational strengthening support.
Review and reflection – Throughout the year, Maliasili Initiatives and our partner will reflect on the work being done – what’s working, what’s not – and we adjust accordingly. This reflection process also feeds into the development of the next phase of work, which is guided by a new OSP and formalized through a new MoU.
Maliasili Initiatives also asks that our partners provide us with feedback on an annual basis so that we can reflect on our growth and performance and adapt accordingly. Partners are given an anonymous online survey to complete each year, and we will occasionally ask them to participate in a third-party evaluation process.
Affiliate Partners: Advisory Support and Network Involvement
If we are doing our job and the organizations we are working with are becoming stronger, then there comes a time when Maliasili Initiatives’ intensive support is no longer needed. There might also come a time when organizational strengthening stops becoming a priority for an organization and they are no longer interested in our services or support. This evolution in relationship prompts a shift in our role and level of investment, based on a joint decision between both organizations. We continue to offer advice and support to our affiliate partners as requested, and to provide them with tools, information and access to our networks.
During the review and reflection process, we discuss with our partners their organizational strengthening needs and how Maliasili Initiatives can help meet those needs. If an organization no longer needs – or wants – specific and focused support, then we jointly agree that a support partnership – set out through a MoU and OSP – is no longer needed. At this time Maliasili will provide a letter to our partner describing our joint decision and explaining the type of ongoing support we can still offer them as an Affiliate Partner.
There may be times when affiliate partners come back to Maliasili and request renewed support, as the organization’s needs change and evolve, in which case we would return to having a formal MoU with them to ensure our roles, responsibilities and expectations are clear.