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Trust and Collaboration: Insights Into OpEx East Africa

February 23, 2020

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Enoch Kazibwe

Operations Manager
World Education, Inc./Bantwana

This week we’re joined by Enoch Kazibwe who shares his experience of presenting at OpEx East Africa 2019. Enoch highlights his key takeaways from the conference as well as outlining his top three reasons why NPO/CSO/CBO operations professionals should attend this year in Nairobi, Kenya. In line with the broader themes of the conference, Enoch also discusses the importance of trust and collaboration, and its critical role in building long-lasting partnerships in the global development sector.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and experience?

My name is Enoch and I am the Operations Manager for World Education, Inc. Uganda. For the past 10 years, I have been building the capacity of local and international development organisations to set up transparent and accountable operational systems of donor-funded projects across Uganda.  My area of focus is primarily operations management with a strong focus in procurement, supply chain management and logistics, or last-mile delivery. I am also involved in building the capacity of our sub-partners to deliver services to beneficiaries at the grassroots by strengthening the efficiency of their operational systems to ensure they are compliant with their sub-award agreements provisions.

Lately, I’ve also been involved in capacity building efforts to fast-track a local implementing partner for direct funding by USAID under the Non-US Partners (NUPAS) direct funding mechanism. My role in this process is to evaluate and support the strengthening of the partner’s administrative systems’ compliance to minimum USAID provisions in the areas of procurement, IT, travel and general project administration.

How did you hear about Humentum?

I have been attending Humentum (previously: InsideNGO) events and workshops since 2012, and they have been a blessing to my professional growth as well as all organisations I have worked for, in terms of knowledge transfer and expertise that I bring to the job. Some of the courses I have taken include USAID Rules and Regulations, Procurement Planning and Execution, Financial Management for USAID Grants and Cooperative Agreements, USAID Proposal Development from RFA/RFP to Proposal, and the most current I am doing, Leadership Behavior workshop.

You presented at last year’s OpExEA2019: what was your session about and why was it relevant?

Leveraging commercial sector partnerships to expand program reach in resource-constrained environments’  was a presentation about a commercial relationship between World Education UG and MTN UG, a leading telecom solutions provider in the region in the setup of a 3600 user communications facility that has enabled World Ed to reach a range of multi-level stakeholders (project staff, community volunteers, local government leaders, police, school headteachers, health workers, etc.) that the program works with to reach over 150,000 beneficiaries spread across 22 districts across Eastern and Northern Uganda with HIV prevention and other support services to vulnerable children and youth.

How did it link to the theme of building greater trust?

As development organisations, we carry the hopes, fears and trust of millions of people that we make promises to our donors to take care of, in terms of their primal needs; be they health, educational, shelter, etc. Fundamental among these elements of trust is the fiduciary duty to utilize available resources, especially financial responsibility. World Ed demonstrated this primary duty at two levels. First to the beneficiaries, by ensuring we set up structures that would be ever-present to respond to their needs. Secondly, to the donors, by establishing structures that operated at an optimal level with minimal cost to the project, guaranteeing we were able to reach even more beneficiaries with the same pool of funds.

What was your experience of the other sessions? What stood out to you?

I liked Dr. Livingstone Ssewanyana of Foundation for Human Rights Initiative and Mrs. Margaret Ssekagya of Human Rights Centre Uganda session on navigating the shrinking regulatory space in Uganda and around the region for civil society. What stood out for me was that for the civil society to be able to challenge any ‘unjust’ laws, we must first comply with them and build a critical mass of organisations that can challenge them, either through engagement with the governments or courts of law.

Dr. Alex Coutinho’s key-note session also was quite informative on building the credibility of local organisations to be able to navigate the aid infrastructure. Leadership, he emphasised, is the beginning of everything!

The theme of this year’s conference is the spirit of collaboration and the idea that we are all better when we work together. What are your thoughts on this?

There could not have been a better time to emphasize the relevancy of the spirit of collaboration than now when most donors are emphasizing the sustainability of interventions and the dwindling resource envelope. PEPFAR’s localization agenda has also pushed the idea to the frontline with many INGOs now required to work hand-in-hand with local organisations that have hitherto been their subordinates to ensure the sustainability of particularly HIV interventions. How these relationships evolve and the buy-in of other stakeholders like the host governments and other implementing agencies will be critical to the success of PEPFAR’s localization initiative.

How do you see it linking to the previous conference?

Trust goes hand in hand with collaboration. You can only collaborate with one whom you have built a degree of engagement or trust with. This is true even in the spirit of building long-lasting partnerships that deliver development outcomes. Host governments need to trust the intentions of their development partners/donors and vice versa. Donors too need to trust their implementing partners and vice versa. Implementers need to trust their sub-awardees who may–going forward, become their primes, and all these stakeholders need to remember that at the end of the day, all they do may mean the life and death of child or mother in a community somewhere.

Looking into 2020 and beyond, what do you believe are some of the biggest areas the sector needs to prioritize?

I believe building coalitions of local development partners or implementers to lobby or speak with one voice to donors or big funders like PEPFAR, host government ministries and agencies of government, and looking at alternative models of development financing besides the regular funders is one area. If the needs that development financing is addressing are not going away (in some cases increasing) and yet the appetite to ‘do good’ keeps going down, we have got to think creatively of other ways to meet these development challenges.

For those considering going to OpEx East Africa 2020 this April, what are the top three reasons they should go?

  1. Perhaps the biggest gathering of development professionals in East Africa talking about real issues that affect the delivery of development work across the region and the world.
  2. An opportunity to share real-life challenges, and what it takes to deliver aid-funded, but life-changing programs in the region.
  3. A network of aligned professionals in every sector of development, from health, education, WASH, agriculture, etc. You won’t fail to find someone that shares your interest, passion, or expertise.

What makes OpEx East Africa different from other conferences in the region?

OpEx East Africa is non-discriminatory. It does not matter if you are an Executive Director, Program Manager or Finance and Operations Specialist. There is something of interest for every single one of these groups to attend, go back with, and begin immediate discussions to implement when you ‘return to your desk on Monday’.

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