- NGO Partnerships for Social Service Delivery
South African National Council for Child and Family Welfare
do not think that the need for partnership between a state and
civil society organisations for effective and efficient service
delivery requires much debate. Service delivery, we know, in a
fragmented, un-coordinated fashion where various role players
go about in the delivery of services in a unilateral manner without
them being part of a comprehensive, coherent strategy, would have
great difficulty in meaningfully respond to needs. We also know
that unless there is mutual respect for each others roles and
Government and the NGO community are well informed of each others
roles and there is negotiated agreement on how the respective
parties are going to pursue a shared vision and common goals,
the social services arena can be a chaotic one. I am of the opinion
that one of the obstacles to social development and poverty eradication
in the developing world relates to fragmented, scattered, hit-and-run
efforts in responding to social needs and that resources are not
mustered and harnessed towards integrated and holistic programmes.
Partnership arrangements, especially between government and the
social services and development NGO community would go a long
way in the development of joint policies and inter-related, comprehensive
A Case for Social Services NGO's
is widely acknowledged that the state alone cannot achieve its
goals in addressing social needs and that organs of civil society
in a democratic dispensation, firmly rooted in society and with
popular participation and voluntary support, are essential for
a caring, responsive and effective service delivery network. The
degree to which there is a presence and activity of a voluntary
welfare initiative and wider NGO life is said to be an indicator
of the level of a country's democracy. The flexibility, responsiveness
and innovation of the private sector is readily acknowledged and
where NGO programmes are supported by Government funding, NGO's
contribute extra time, resources and ongoing commitment. Considerable
funds are also leveraged from the public, the corporate sector
and other donors. The Government that fails to recognise and formally
acknowledge the invaluable role the NGO community plays in social
development, is indeed a foolish one. This recognition and formal
acknowledgement needs to be settled with a partnership agreement.
What is a Partnership Arrangement About?
formal partnership arrangement acknowledges and cements the distinct
but complimentary and supplementary roles of state and the NGO
community into a synergistic strategy to achieve a shared vision
and common goal.
It is acknowledged that partnerships are fluid and flexible and
that they evolve. The nature of the partnership would also vary
significantly according to the unique characteristics, such as
structure, culture and objectives of a particular NGO or consortium
of NGO's. Nevertheless, a policy framework within which partnerships
are enabled to develop and grow, would form the basic instrument
for the Government and NGO's to, in a coordinated fashion, live
out their shared vision and attain their distinct, but mutually
complimentary and supplementary roles. Examples of such policy
documents to govern the development of a relationship between
a government and civil society are widespread in the developed
world. It is ironic that in the developing world where there is
a much more urgent need for the strengthening of capacity through
joining hands, such formal partnership arrangements are few and
Conceptualising Government-NGO Partnerships
partnership can be described as a relationship rooted in the acceptance
of both parties of their shared vision and responsibility for
the delivery of social services within policy and legislative
frameworks governing a country's response to its social needs
It is an acknowledgement, acceptance and respect by each party
of the other's distinct, but mutually complementary and interdependent
roles for the attainment of shared goals.
Partnership embodies the notion of acceptance by both parties
that their respective roles are of equal importance in the pursuit
of their shared vision and goals, specifically as they relate
to social justice and equality.
Partnership demands both close co-operation between the parties
and the co-ordination of roles and functions throughout the entire
process of policy development to service delivery.
A partnership accepts that there is strength in unity and that
the total is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Partnership allows for such levels of consultation and negotiations
that would result in the filling of the investment gap in social
service provision, i.e. ensuring services are provided in areas
not covered or sufficiently covered and ensuring the relevance
and appropriateness of services.
Accountability between the parties is reciprocal with the parties
carrying equal status.
The interdependent and interactive nature of the partnership as
a working relationship requires openness, transparency and accessibility
between the partners.
A partnership policy, agreement or compact should include the
philosophy and principles that underpin the partnership, shared
values and goals, roles and responsibilities and commitments to
action. These commitments are to, in the words of the Northern
Ireland Compact, "
support and lend substance to the
values and principles
Partnership for Capacity Building
referring to capacity, I think it is important to note at this
point that a partnership also implies an inter-relatedness and
inter-dependence between the respective parties. A policy acknowledges
this inter-relatedness and inter-dependence. It provides for communication
structures and processes where values, knowledge and skills are
shared, where needs, frustrations and aspirations are communicated
and responded to. Mutual influencing takes place in a partnership
arrangement and it provides the platform for training and development
and as such contributes to the building of capacity. The Northern
Ireland Compact acknowledges "
that the provision of
funding and other forms of support by Government is an important
means of strengthening the capacity of the voluntary and community
sector and enabling it to contribute effectively to the attainment
of Government objectives."
the value of vibrant civil society organisations for the welfare
of a nation, Governments have the responsibility to promote the
NGO community and strengthen its capacity, thereby contributing
to enable social service NGO's to function and deliver optimally.
This responsibility of Government and opportunity for NGO's would
be greatly enhanced within the context of a partnership policy
framework within which roles and responsibilities are negotiated
and clarified. In South Africa , and in many other parts of the
developing and even the developed world, a dwindling of the social
services NGO community is very evident. This is due mainly to
declining Government financial support, which in turn seems to
be rooted in macro-economic policies, dictated by global economic
forces. And global economic forces do not take kindly to Governments'
social spending. The irony in South Africa is that the deterioration
in capacity of NGO's impacts directly on the Government's ability
to achieve its development, social justice and equality goals,
since these are exactly the aspirations of many of the NGO's which
are being crippled by lack of Government support.
ability of the NGO community with its readily accepted anchors
in and direct participation and support by civil society to guide
and strengthen the capacity of Government organs should not be
underestimated. It advises Government on issues of concern and
advocates and campaigns for change as a response to need. It can
guide and significantly contribute to legislative and policy making
processes. A partnership implies that NGO's are draw in by Government,
in a structured way, to contribute to the legislative and policy-making
processes. It accepts that the NGO community with its constituent
base and unique character of representation can legitimately guide
Government policies and practices.
Roles in a Partnership
State has a governing responsibility to ensure that there is
the required delivery of services within legislative and policy
State therefore accepts primary responsibility for the development
of policies and legislation to facilitate and direct the design
and implementation of service programmes.
acknowledging the central role of the voluntary welfare sector
in the implementation of services, rooted in policies and legislation,
the development of policies and legislation is a joint process
between the parties with the State driving, facilitating and
co-ordinating the process. Since policies directly impact on
the NGO sector and the consumers of their services the State
acknowledges the NGO sector as stakeholder with equity in policy
and legislative processes. Against this background it is the
role of the State to ensure and provide for the necessary mechanisms
and structures for communication and consultation. Consultative
processes start right at the onset and initiation of deliberations
for the development of policies, legislation and implementation
strategies. The State accepts responsibility for engaging with
the voluntary or NGO sector from this fundamental initial stage.
acknowledging its primary responsibility for the welfare of
its citizens, it accepts the responsibility for creating and
maintaining an enabling environment for the delivery of such
to the notion of an enabling environment for the delivery of
services is the State's responsibility to adequately fund the
instruments (organisations) rendering the services.
virtue of its governing responsibility and its funding the State
accepts the role of approving, monitoring, and evaluating the
State funded service programmes of welfare organisations.
accepts the responsibility to be reciprocally accountable to
the welfare sector for its policies and practices.
engages the voluntary sector in the planning of its own service
programmes and on the co-ordination of services between the
department and welfare organisations.
is to ensure its accessibility to the voluntary welfare sector.
This includes accessibility to information and other resources
of the Department.
mechanisms are to provide for timeous and comprehensive information
dissemination between the parties.
The NGO Sector
is the role of NGO's to deliver services efficiently and effectively
within the framework of Government policies, and strategies
consulted and negotiated between NGO's and Government
in partnership with Government to achieve common aims and objectives
is accountable to Government for its policies and service programmes.
is open, transparent and accountable to the public
an instrument of civil society the NGO sector accepts the role
of watchdog over the policies and practices of Government in
the interest of the consumers, its services and the wider public.
In this role it will target Government in its advocacy, lobbying
and negotiating functions when required.
has the role to ensure the co-ordination of its own services
and to engage Government in discussions on the co-ordination
of services between the Government and NGO's.
NGO sector, through representative structures will be accessible
to the Government for purposes of joint planning, information
sharing and decision making.
is imperative that the respective roles and responsibilities
of Government and the NGO sector are negotiated, clarified and
understood by all. This is based on a shared vision and common
goal, the competencies and mandates of the partners.
closing I quote from the 1998 Wilson House Conference Report :
"Close links between citizens and the institutions of representative
democracy were seen as crucial to national success in the next
millennium. As the future brings with it greater engagement of
citizens in the design of public policy and as citizens demand
more responsive institutions, the basic institutions of representative
democracy will come under increasing pressure for reform."