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OPINION: Too important to leave to chance

Katharine Vincent and Tracy Cull from Kulima Integrated Development Solutions, and Lindsay Stringer, Andrew Dougill and Jen Dyer from Leeds University highlight the need to approach inter-project learning and collaboration through greater donor coordination efforts.

Kulima Integrated Development Solutions and Leeds University are just two actors amongst many in the development arena in Mozambique.  It just so happens that we are each leading a CDKN project in that country – Leeds is researching Institutional & Governance Partnerships for Climate Compatible Development in four southern African countries, including Mozambique;  while Kulima is implementing a technical assistance project to assess the impact of climate change on the health sector, as requested by the Ministry of Health (MISAU) – but it was only by chance that the overlaps between our two projects became known.  Here we outline our experiences of collaboration and argue that such inter-project collaboration is too important to leave to chance.

Coincidentally, representatives of both projects happened to be in Maputo at the same time: Leeds was running their Mozambique stakeholder workshop, and Kulima was meeting with the government steering committee to agree on the workplan for their project.  One of the steering committee members was attending the Leeds workshop and so suggested meeting at the end of the day at the workshop venue.  As it happened, the two PIs recognised each other (having previously met in the UK as PhD students in the mid 2000s).  After the workshop both teams then had an informal discussion and information-sharing session on progress to date, and agreed to actively keep each other informed.  What this meant in practice was that we shared resources, information arising, and emerging findings.

The Leeds project also had a regional workshop planned as part of the final stages of their project, which was held in Mozambique.  They invited 2 members of the Kulima team, to ensure that findings on the health impacts of climate change – and also their contribution to climate-compatible development – could be included.  Given the topic of the workshop, Kulima also made an impromptu intervention reflecting on the informal partnership that had evolved organically between the two projects.

Ultimately we felt that opening our eyes to information that might be of use to the other project, and communicating it where appropriate, was a minimal effort to pay, but that the outcome was a total which was more than the sum of the two projects.  But there were many chance factors that enabled this to happen among our projects (the PIs already knowing each other, initial meetings coinciding in Maputo etc).

We believe that, since donor-driven development is often focused around projects and programmes, inter-project learning and collaboration is too important to leave to chance.  As well as being brought about by “bottom up” efforts from the project leaders, it could also be supported “top down”,  by stronger donor coordination fora (not just at national level, but even at regional level and globally).  This is particularly the case for funders who commission different types of project (e.g. research, technical assistance and capacity building in support of policy development and implementation) because the various implementers of these different spheres may not, under normal circumstances, be aware of, or come into contact with each other (e.g. universities, consultancies and NGOs).  Ensuring that climate-compatible outcomes are optimal is worth the effort.

We’d be interested to hear if others agree.  How would such a fora look in reality?  Do you have experiences to share?

We occasionally invite bloggers from around the world to provide their experiences and views. The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of CDKN.

For more information, contact Katharine Vincent or Tracy Cull.

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