Community Partners

I. Our Global-Local Model

II. Sourcing Community Partners

III. Building the Partnership

IV. The Essentials

Why Community Partners Are Needed

Effective international development work demands collaboration and coordination between global funders and local implementers. In the past decade, international development organizations have renewed their effort to provide more direct funding to local partners and to grow stronger partnerships with these organizations. These efforts are often referred to as “localizing” international development work, or as supporting “proximate leadership” in low-resourced settings.

While there is great support for global-local engagement, we know very little about the impact of such partnerships or which specific factors make for greater success. In other words, 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?

“Despite much talk about the essential role of partnerships in advancing global development, best practices remain elusive and poorly documented.”

Patscheke, “Shaping Global Partnership,” Stanford Social Innovation Review

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.

The Community Partners element of the Luminos Method details how we work with and support our local non-governmental organization (NGO) partners. We believe it can help fill the gap in research on best practices for global-local partnerships, provide important insight for the increasing number of donors and NGOs committed to localization, and add to the impact case for funding proximate leaders.

Key Messages

Our partners domestic, locally led, NGOshave been a core part of the Luminos Fund’s accelerated learning program from the beginning. There are three key aspects to our collaborations with community partners that make our program successful:

This webpage includes an overview of how Luminos builds effective community partnerships. For more detailed information, recommendations based on our experiences, and a discussion of some of the tensions and challenges involved, you can download this document.

    Our Approach

    I. Our Global-Local Model

    “Cognitively, children everywhere learn to read the same way, but they learn in unique national and cultural contexts. Great education has to weave both these realities together.”

    Caitlin Baron, CEO, Luminos Fund

    Community partners have been a part of Luminos since the program’s 2016 inception in Ethiopia. As we expanded into other countries, community partners remained a core part of our learning model. At the center of our global-local model is the ethos of co-creation with our community partners, which spans the entire partnership experience and nearly every aspect of the program. From start to finish, we work hand in hand with our community partners in the delivery of our program. 

    We implement our global-local model by:

    • Carving out distinct roles for both Luminos and the community partner
      • Luminos funds the program and our in-country staff take the lead on overall management of the process
      • Community partners inform program design and lead the day-to-day implementation of the program from start to finish
    • Co-implementing the program at every stage of the process, including:
      • Employing an iterative approach to curriculum design, ensuring national culture and context is infused throughout
      • Tracking student progress in real time and making classroom adjustments as needed
      • Building relationships with the community, and local and national governments
    • Growing the leadership responsibilities of our community partners over time, including:
      • Engaging at a deeper level in the co-design of the curriculum
      • Delivering program staff training
      • Introducing program innovations based on experience and expertise (e.g., hygiene in the classroom, a trauma-informed approach to education, etc.)

    Luminos students in Ethiopia have fun doing group work. (Photo by Michael Stulman/Luminos Fund)

      • Engaging at a deeper level in the co-design of the curriculum
      • Delivering program staff training
      • Introducing program innovations based on experience and expertise (e.g., hygiene in the classroom, a trauma-informed approach to education, etc.)

    To learn more about our global-local model, and how Luminos works hand-in-hand with our community partners in the co-implementation of our program, you can download the full PDF.

    “Both Luminos and the community partner have a voice and stake in the program. This is not a strategy we get to have with other partners. That is the beauty of the work and why we cherish our role with Luminos.”

    Alpha Camara, Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation Manager at Effective Intervention, Luminos community partner in The Gambia

    II. Sourcing Community Partners

    The Luminos program occurs over the course of ten months. The program’s time-bound nature makes the initial choice of a community partner especially critical. 

    We find the right community partners by:

      • Employing a set of basic, objective criteria, looking for community partners with:
        • A mission and focus on children and learning
        • A deep expertise in their region
        • A strong relationship with relevant government agencies
      • Conducting a comprehensive due diligence check, assessing:
        • Child protection and safeguarding practices
        • Financial statements
        • Formal references from relevant stakeholders
      • Working with a range of organizations
        • Our partners include both new and well established organizations
        • Some partners have large operating budgets, others are quite small
        • Partners bring different types of expertise, like child protection, health, and sanitation

      Luminos Community Partners Snapshot

      Beyond our basic criteria, there is no one-size-fits-all.

      To learn more about how Luminos sources and vets our community partners, and the key qualifications we look for, you can download the full PDF.

      III. Building the Partnership

      After entering into a relationship with a community partner, Luminos works together with them to build our partnership and enhance the program’s impact. Certain characteristics of our partnerships have defined our success together. Luminos invests in building these elements over the course of our working relationship with our partners. This includes:

      • Aligning on leadership, mission, and values:
        • Centering on a deep belief in our program’s potential to change children’s learning trajectory
        • Developing a joyful approach to implementation, which matches our pedagogy of joyful learning
        • Prioritizing learning outcomes, and embracing monitoring and evaluation
      • Solving problems nimbly and proactively:
        • Responding quickly within a fast-moving process
        • Problem solving throughout the program, including after hours
        • Cultivating a nimble readiness to think creatively in the face of opportunities and challenges
      • Communicating often and quickly, work towards a culture of transparency:
        • Communicating frequently across various platforms (WhatsApp, email, etc.)
        • Addressing challenges in real-time, and at a fast-moving pace
        • Building trust to create an authentic culture of feedback

      “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, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus-Development & Social Service Commission (EECMY-DASSC), Luminos community partner in Ethiopia

      “When a community partner takes on this programming as a stewardship rather than a project, that makes the partner’s work successful. We want them to fall in love with  the work.”  

      Dr. Alemayehu (Alex) Hailu Gebre, Ethiopia Senior Director of Programs, Luminos Fund

      Our recommendations for building the partnership:

      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.

      Admit when you are wrong. Sometimes new ideas for program adaptations do not work out, and it is important to acknowledge that fact openly with partners.

      Invest the time to share your data and evaluations with your community partners. Programmatic learnings are of far greater value when they are effectively shared with those who can take action on them.

      Own the responsibility of creating a culture of transparency. As a funder, how you respond to direct feedback will set the tone for the partnership.

      Promote clear and open communication channels, in both directions, on an ongoing basis.

      To learn more about how Luminos works together with community partners to build our partnership and enhance the program’s impact,  you can download this document.

      IV. The Essentials

      Effective international development work demands collaboration and coordination between global funders and local implementers. Local partners have been a core part of the Luminos Fund’s high-impact learning program from the beginning. We build our community partnerships by:

        Implementing a Global-Local Model:

        • At the center of our community partnerships is the ethos of co-implementation and co-creation with our community partners
        • To provide clarity, Luminos and the community partner have distinct roles, with Luminos funding and managing the program, and community partners leading on day-to-day implementation
        • As our community partners engage with us over time, their roles and responsibilities grow accordingly

          Using Robust Sourcing Criteria:

          • The Luminos program has developed comprehensive criteria for selecting community partners
          • We pair our criteria with a comprehensive due diligence process, to assess child protection policies, financial documents, and formal recommendations
          • Our criteria allows us to work with a wide range of organizations–new and established, with large and small operating budgets, and with a variety of other programmatic expertise

          Building the Partnership:

          • In our work with our community partners, there are certain qualities we build and invest in the partnership to enhance the program’s impact and the partnership’s success
          • This includes creating a culture of joy, cultivating responsiveness, and advancing a culture of accountability and transparency.

          Luminos could not achieve our education mission as effectively, efficiently, and joyfully without the proximate leadership of our community partners. We see the value of their knowledge and dedication each and every school year.

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