Five Tips to Build Effective Global-Local Partnerships

Five Tips to Build Effective Global-Local Partnerships

While the international development world is committed to putting more resources in the hands of local partners, the question remains: how does it work best in practice?

Local partners (what Luminos refers to as our “community partners”) have been a core part of the Luminos Fund’s high-impact learning program from the beginning. In our global-local model, our programs are co-created and co-implemented with our community partners. Through many years of experience, we have honed an approach to deliver our transformative education programs efficiently and effectively with and through our community partners, combining international best practices with deep local expertise and creativity.

Here are five tips from the Community Partners element of the Luminos Method for building effective partnerships.

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of community partners reported that Luminos’ approach to capacity building was “great” and that partners’ staffs were providing the technical resources necessary to work more effectively and efficiently

1. Align on Leadership, Mission, and Values

Do: Ensure your partnerships reflect your values just as much as the program itself. For example, we take a joyful learning approach in the classroom and with our partner interactions.

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Don’t: Assume that the same leadership or operational style will be suitable for all partnerships, regardless of their specific cultural context or organizational values.

“We chose Luminos because it matched with who we are as an institution. We do things differently around foundational literacy and numeracy, and we want to use data to measure progress. We also want to improve the community. In Luminos, it was the first time we saw a partner that encompassed wholly our interests and approach.”

Benjamin Freeman, Executive Director of LIPACE, a Luminos community partner in Liberia

2. Solve Problems Nimbly and Proactively

Do: Take a quick, proactive problem-solving approach in the face of unexpected challenges during program implementation. Though we have standardized many elements of the program over the years, we must remain nimble and ready to think creatively with our partners in the face of operating challenges.

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Don’t: Ignore the insights and problem-solving capabilities of your community partners by adhering rigidly to your processes and overlooking opportunities for mutual learning.

“We came on board having our own processes and opinions about how you go about doing the work. But as we worked alongside Luminos, we saw that they knew what they were doing and that there was so much we could learn in working side by side.”

Kirk Anderson, Executive Director of Link Community Development, a Luminos community partner in Ghana

3. Communicate Often and Quickly

Do: Take a “high-touch” approach to communications through WhatsApp, Slack, by phone, or in person. Whether it is the timely answering of text messages, showing up to important community meetings, or returning phone calls, partner responsiveness is an important value.

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Don’t: Expect successful outcomes without fostering a communication environment that facilitates a swift and collaborative response to changing needs and situations.

“When we are both so closely following the work, it means that most of the time we get to the problem at the right time and have a solution in place before it’s too late to change.”

Hagirso Desta, Executive Director, EECMY-DASSC, a Luminos community partner in Ethiopia

4. Prioritize Learning Outcomes

Do: Use real-time data to help community partners learn and adjust along the way, sharing data with partners via data dashboards or learning sessions to serve as a guide for any classroom adjustments.

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Don’t: Implement data-gathering requirements without explaining their purpose and sharing the results with community partners to invite their input and creative problem-solving.

“All their analysis really helps improve implementation. Each year, this brings to us new and additional knowledge to our approach that makes the work better for the children and the staff.”

Hagirso Desta, Executive Director, EECMY-DASSC, a Luminos community partner in Ethiopia

5. Create a Safe Environment for Candid Feedback

Do: Take the first steps to build a culture of trust and transparency by creating clear and open communication channels, in both directions, on an ongoing basis. This can include multiple formal and informal processes, from surveys and learning sessions to regular check-ins. Commit to being responsive to the feedback received.

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Don’t: Create an atmosphere where partners may feel hesitant to share honest feedback due to concerns about jeopardizing the partnership.

“We have to demonstrate that we really mean it when we ask for feedback and that partners can trust us to receive it well.”

Ernesta Orlovaitė, Luminos Fund, Director of Impact​​

Learn more in the Community Partners element of the Luminos Method!

Transforming Education Systems through Innovative Government Partnerships

Transforming Education Systems through Innovative Government Partnerships

By: Kirstin Buchanan

Today, seven in ten young children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple story.

The profound learning crisis facing young children today is not one that any single organization or government can address alone. Bringing children back on the path of learning and strengthening education systems to keep them there in the long term will require innovative partnerships built on mutual learning and trust.

This belief was the impetus for a powerful peer-to-peer exchange between the Ministries of Education in Ethiopia and Ghana, facilitated by the Luminos Fund in July 2022.

A Holistic Approach

The Luminos Fund takes a holistic approach to education that works in tandem with all levels of society and is supported by a network of partnerships, including with ministries of education. Though these partnerships vary from country to country, they have common goals: strengthening education systems, sharing best practices, prioritizing mutual goals, and building capacity to bring joyful, transformative learning to millions of vulnerable children.

In Ethiopia, the government first began adopting the Luminos program into government public schools in 2017 with a small pilot of 35 classrooms. Today, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is implementing our approach across the school system, and as its preferred solution to reach out-of-school children.

Inside a Luminos classroom in Ethiopia, students work in small groups as their teacher, Tegistu, walks around to support students who need help. (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund)

To accelerate this process, the Ministry created the Accelerated Learning Unit—to which Luminos provides technical support on curriculum development, strategies, and national education policy—to oversee the delivery of across government schools. Partnerships such as this enable Luminos to deliver quality education at scale while prioritizing an approach that puts the interests and needs of local communities at the center of decision-making. They also serve as a testament to the value of government partnerships in bringing about systems change.

In each program country, working closely with governments is key to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Luminos program.

What Can Ghana and Ethiopia Learn From Each Other?

In addition to partnering with ministries of education on the delivery of the program, Luminos also convenes governments and other key stakeholders to champion proven education solutions and share best practices for scaling accelerated learning programs that ensure all children have equal access to joyful, foundational learning.

Luminos Ethiopia Country Director and Regional Strategic Advisor, Dr. Alemayehu Hailu Gebre, greets Mr. Francis Asumadu, Acting Executive Director of the Complementary Education Agency (CEA) for the Ghanaian Ministry of Education. (Photo: Obeng Baah for the Luminos Fund)

In July 2022, Luminos facilitated a learning visit for members of the Ethiopian MOE to explore our newest country program in Ghana and meet with their peers in Ghana’s Ministry of Education. This learning exchange was a unique opportunity to share best practices from Luminos’ flagship program in Ethiopia and bring visibility to the ongoing work within the education sector in Ghana. The visit included four days of highly productive workshops, meetings, and classroom visits. Here are three key takeaways:

1. There’s a strong desire for collaboration.

Both Ministries are keen to find innovative ways of strengthening government-to-government and multistakeholder partnerships, and leveraging these partnerships to provide quality education to out-of-school and marginalized children. Building relationships with other ministries and partners that are providing social services to the most vulnerable families will be critical to ensuring holistic, sustainable support for all learners. The Ghanaian and Ethiopian Ministries of Education are also keen to continue to forge collaborations on key sector issues including improving student retention and strengthening monitoring and evaluation within government schools.

2. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to program delivery and scaling.

To develop high-impact and contextually relevant education solutions to the learning crisis, catch-up education programs will need to be adapted based on the needs, capacity, and context of the communities they serve. Building and strengthening engagement with community-based organizations, parents, and other members of the community is key to ensuring the effective delivery of programs.

3. Accelerated learning programs must be aligned with national strategies, policies, and goals.

Rather than working in silos, nonprofit organizations and ministries of education must work together within a framework established by government, which can generate impact in both informal and formal education systems.

What’s Next

To tackle today’s education crisis, we must act together. Increasingly, our work with governments forms a fundamental piece of the puzzle in scaling our reach and impact. Through these partnerships, we are embedding effective accelerated learning and teaching strategies into the fabric of education systems and creating structures that ensure out-of-school children remain a priority for national education planning. It is only through deep, innovative partnerships with government, local communities, and key education stakeholders that we can truly transform education systems in service of the most vulnerable children.

Kirstin Buchanan serves as the Development & Communications Associate at the Luminos Fund where she amplifies student voices and program stories, in addition to helping drive content, messaging, and fundraising strategy. She holds a MA in International Affairs and BA in International Relations from Boston University, as well as a certificate in Latin American studies.

Easy As 1-2-3: Innovative Community-Driven Collaborations for Helping Out-Of-School Children Catch Up

Easy As 1-2-3: Innovative Community-Driven Collaborations for Helping Out-Of-School Children Catch Up

On Wednesday, December 8th, the Luminos Fund had the honor of leading a virtual panel discussion at the 2021 WISE Summit titled, “Easy as 1-2-3: Innovative Community-Driven Collaborations for Helping Out-of-School Children Catch Up.” Luminos was honored with a WISE Award in 2017 and remains a proud member of the WISE community.

Moderated by Luminos CEO, Caitlin Baron, the session explored Luminos’ model of deep partnership with community-based organizations and shared lessons for the broader education community to drive greater positive impact for some of the most marginalized children and communities. Panelists included:

  • Dr. Kwame Akyeampong, Professor of International Education and Development, the Open University | Luminos Advisory Board member
  • Benjamin M. Freeman Jr., Executive Director, Liberia Institute for the Promotion of Academic Excellence (LIPACE) | Luminos partner
  • Abba G. Karnga Jr., Liberia Program Manager, Luminos Fund
  • Nikita Khosla, Senior Director of Programs, Luminos Fund

Why Luminos works with community-based organizations

Luminos works in partnership with community-based organizations (CBOs) and governments through a hub-and-spoke operating model to deliver our catch-up education programs. In each country we work in, a small, expert Luminos team is responsible for curriculum, pedagogy, training, monitoring and evaluation, and government adoption, and Luminos funds local CBOs to implement the program. Second Chance, our catch-up education program, is delivered through these local partners whose capabilities Luminos helps build, support, and oversee throughout the program. Each community Luminos operates in is unique with different traditions, dialects, and needs. As such, it is critical that we contextualize our work to align with these varying circumstances. Who better to know and deeply understand these needs than the people who live and work there? This is why we partner with local organizations like LIPACE in Liberia, led by panelist Benjamin M. Freeman Jr. (Ben).

As Nikita Khosla explained, thanks to CBOs, Luminos is able to rapidly adapt to new geographies and quickly learn how to help meet children where they are. These community partnerships allow Luminos to be highly responsive to local conditions and needs and teach in children’s local language using contextually relevant stories and experiences to enrich learning. In addition, this community-based model helps build local capacity and creates a sustainable model for the future. As Nikita noted, Luminos hopes that our holistic, community-based approach to catch-up education for out-of-school children will grow beyond our organization.

Navigating the power dynamics

There is an inherent dynamic between larger, international NGOs and smaller CBOs. Nikita explained that to navigate this dynamic, Luminos intentionally creates a flat hierarchy from the start. We co-establish a common goal—ensuring all children are learning—and work towards that together. In addition, Luminos conducts quarterly learning sessions with our partners where we ask, “How can we improve the program?”

The first time Ben needed to provide constructive feedback to Luminos, he was hesitant. Ben shared that it was through the quarterly learning sessions that he grew to trust Luminos as an organization that valued the voices and opinions of its partners. Now, providing feedback comes more easily.

Luminos Liberia Program Manager, Abba G. Karnga Jr., noted that this was a crucial part of the puzzle to get right.

“We have to talk about the things that are working, and the things that are not working,” he said.

With that information in hand, Luminos can actively problem-solve. For instance, Nikita shared a recent example from Liberia where Luminos provides midday meals. After receiving feedback from our partners that students did not like the new fortified porridge, we changed the hot meals back to rice and beans.

Working with CBOs during COVID

For Luminos, working with CBOs allowed learning to continue for our students during the pandemic. Because our teachers are local, we were able to hold outdoor micro-classes that parents felt comfortable sending their children to attend. Through our partners, we distributed at-home learning resources and provided emergency food supplies to families in need. On the partner side, Ben noted that the CBO network Luminos created “ensured that we could go beyond the technological gaps that we were experiencing to bring effective COVID awareness and continue to ensure children were learning.”

What can the global community learn?

To wrap up the session, Caitlin posed the question, “What might the Luminos team be getting right, what are the shortcomings, and what might the global community take away more broadly?” to Dr. Kwame Akyeampong, a long-time evaluator of Luminos’ program and member of our Advisory Board.

Kwame reflected that the research shows Luminos’ model can close learning gaps for out-of-school children; it is essential for the global community to look at models like these that can close those learning gaps rapidly. Working with CBOs who have deep knowledge and investments in communities means that Luminos can recruit teachers and make a meaningful difference. “We tend to think about the program much more in terms of the child,” said Kwame, “but it also about the community. It takes a village to educate the child.”

Thank you to WISE and all the participants for such a dynamic and engaging session, and all our community partners. Learn more about WISE and the 2021 WISE Summit here, and read more about Luminos’ community teaching model here.

71 Commercial Street, #232 | Boston, MA 02109 |  USA
+1 781 333 8317   info@luminosfund.org

The Luminos Fund is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt charitable organization registered in the United States (EIN 36-4817073).

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