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How to Ensure Your COVID-19 Remote Management Strategy Empowers Local Partners

Discover actions that can be taken to ensure remote management strategies empower local partners.

In infectious disease outbreaks such as COVID-19, organizations may need to switch to remote management approaches due to limitations on movement and face-to-face contact. This may be perceived by many as a temporary action, while in reality organizations should be thinking of empowering local partners independent of the IDO crisis.

The article “Opinion: How to ensure that your COVID-19 remote management strategy empowers local partners” was published on Devex. The following was adapted from that article. It presents an interesting perspective on steps that should be thought about while transitioning to remote management and some actions that should have been taken to respond to localized priorities ahead of the pandemic and throughout programming.

Here are four key lessons from the Devex article on developing partnerships with local actors while managing and monitoring remotely.

Allow Real Co-design and Co-ownership of Projects

Organizations forced to move from direct programming to remote operations should shift from a mentality of remote management (in which local partners implement programs designed by donors and international non-governmental organizations [INGOs]) to one of remote collaboration (drawing on partners’ local knowledge, relationships and creativity).

INGOs should recognize that local actors are well-positioned to serve their communities during crises such as COVID-19 and support them. They are best placed to understand how the pandemic and public health responses are impacting the most vulnerable and what interventions are needed.

For example, the Ebola Community Action Platform in Liberia, launched in 2014, saw promising outcomes after granting 77 local civil society organizations substantial autonomy over designing and adapting mobilization activities to respond to local norms and information needs.

 Integrate Partner-driven Capacity Strengthening with Project Delivery.

Local organizations may be the actors best equipped to act quickly in IDOs such as COVID-19. INGOs often evacuate expatriate staff during crises. Without the luxury of evacuating, an INGO’s national staff and local partners often assume the risks of continuing to deliver aid, so it is vital that they have the capacity to do so.

Working with local partners to jointly map risk transfer can build their capacity to make informed decisions about how to adapt their activities and operations. Supporting the development of local partners’ capacity improves implementation fidelity, adherence to humanitarian principles, and the safety and security of partners.

Build on Existing Trusted Relationships and Forge New Ones When Required

Widespread local trust is particularly important for the types of public health activities implemented as part of an IDO response and that entails information dissemination, community mobilization, and behavior change. With restricted access to partners, international actors need to establish two-way trust with partners through open and responsive communication.

Respond to Immediate Needs But Build Long-term Relationships.

Even when full access is restored, continuing to partner with local organizations and communities builds local resilience to future shocks.

Your Task

What additional recommendations would you consider to ensure we build on localization gains in IDO responses to empower communities for years to come?
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