Synergy & Alignment
It continues to be a challenge in many African countries to organise, coordinate effectively, and get impact out of projects and programmes (be it humanitarian aid, development, or research). Of course, it is the safest way to execute a project all by yourself with a single stakeholder and stringent control mechanisms. However, in practice, that is not realistic because of the effects of scales and influences of other domains. Therefore, it is logical that such a project is having a limited impact in time and space (impact).
Currently, multiple donors are funding many organisations to execute projects all thriving to reach the SDGs, Vision2063, and several other plans developed for Africa. However, despite all the funds provided and goodwill of the actors, if we are honest, development projects in sub-Saharan Africa did not match the expectations. People responsible increasingly recognise that these projects are all too frequently executed in isolation, even in the same territory, as illustrated below. The consequence is limited impact and waste of time and money. Or to give two practical examples, farmers confronted with multiple, sometimes even conflicting messages, and baselines studies executed in the district in the same year by two organisations.
Actual situation: work in silo's
Work in isolation
Exchange within a domain
Synergy & Alignment in action
Exchange within a domain
Exchanging between domains
Possibilities to get more out of on-going projects
The first step to change the situation described above is to have people working on the same subject exchange ideas, technologies, etc. as depicted above in the second schema. This exchange of information also builds capacity. It opens-up and changes existing mindsets so that participants truly understand that sharing information is worthwhile, potentially synergistic and will not threaten their autonomy.
Subsequently, when people lift the barrier between projects, organisations, or even countries, they will be able to see the struggle similar projects are experiencing. Next, results that can be shared and compared for a better understanding of why one thing is working in one place and not in another place while it looks at first sight so similar. Unfortunately, reporting the lessons learnt is not yet a common practice.
If one goes a step further, projects can work better together. Projects must define first their needs to increase their impact and their outputs that can help other projects to allow that collaboration to work out in practice. These needs or outputs can be teaching materials, seeds, methodologies, data, etc. The third schema above symbolises how one can identify options for Synergy and Alignment (S&A) of activities between projects with different characteristics. Sharing this detailed information contributes to S&A as it helps to determine what the various stakeholders want to gain by the envisaged collaboration. Consequently, all partners can increase their impact.
Synergy and alignment of actions towards a shared goal (designed early 1996 for a new project in West Africa).
When parties are seeing that others are working as hard as they do and that they pursue the same or very similar goals, exchange of results and carrying out together activities will become much more comfortable and manageable. It provides the possibilities to discover options for S&A and optimisation of the strengths of all involved that helps to focus even more on impact creation.
Synergy & Alignment Facilitation
Facilitating the process of creating S&A leads to better integration of disciplines as well as valuable cooperation between the various stakeholders. Subsequently, they will jointly increase sustainable development and implement the integrated development plan(s) designed for that territory more efficiently.
However, in practice, some obstacles do exist. The first challenge is to overcome the fear that another party will walk away with your idea, your potential job, your new (….), etc. Another issue is that donors want to claim a victory that their project was the best, the fastest, etc. That implies that the process may take some time before one sees tangible results. Below we highlight two projects that we carried out, one in Mali and one in Burundi.
We believe that collaboration is, in its essence, the key to development. Of course, it takes courage to show the weak part of yourself, project, or organisation, but another can support you to overcome that. Consequently, a winning team emerges that will create an impact more than one can do alone.
Synergy & Alignment in practice
As part of the elaboration of the integrated and sustainable development plan for the Sourou (PDIDS) in Mali, Trimpact carried out the S&A-analysis. The analysis included the identification of all current actors in the Sourou (155) firstly, and the inventory of their projects and the corresponding status (40 implemented, 4 planned and 4 closed in the Sourou). Next, we determined the potential contribution of these projects and those in neighbouring areas to the implementation of the PDIDS.
The assistance can be direct with activities in the Sourou area (in Malian side of the Sourou valley and transboundary), or indirect via transfers of knowledge (e.g. lessons learnt) or technologies from projects in the Sourou area in Burkina Faso, or in locations outside the Sourou.
The table to the left illustrates the second part of the analysis. On the X-axis, you find the locations (three prefectures and Burkina Faso) and the 17 development strategies identified. On the Y-axis, you see the acronyms of the projects. For the complete analysis, please download the report in French.
Work in isolation
It is evident that with at least 155 organisations working in the Sourou (each of them having own funds and executing actions), coordination and S&A within the framework of the PDIDS are urgently needed to avoid wasting of financial means and time, and also to (re)gain) people’s trust because some are confused by the number of interventions.
Trimpact presented, of course, this analysis to the Interministerial commission that was involved in the project. They recognised the need for such an approach but had to admit that the ministries were not yet that far.
Together project work
As part of the PAPAB project, the donor gave Trimpact in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MINAGRIE) the mandate to promote the S&A between PAPAB and other projects in the province Cibitoke in Burundi using the online Development Synergy and Alignment Tool (DevSAT®). During the second phase, they added five other provinces as well as training of local parties in the use of DevSAT.
The various workshops helped participants better to understand the challenges and issues of the different stakeholders to increase S&A (and to have feedback and recommendations on the use of DevSAT). Representatives of state structures from provinces, municipalities and NGOs expressed the need to have an overview of the projects to create S&A between them. Some participants have already begun to create opportunities for and bringing S&A in practice to avoid wasting money and time using the tool.
The innovation in S&A, made possible with DevSAT, calls for a change of mandate of projects to increase the combined impact. Results clearly show that projects can make use of the deliverables made available by another project. The figure above shows an example of such a visualisation with project locations (orange markers) that could benefit from the deliverables of the PCDC project (green marker). Consequently, projects should have the mandate not only delivering to their target groups but other stakeholders as well. In this way, the impact of all organisations working in synergy will be visible and measurable.