At USAID, we work hard to build a world that is safer, healthier, and more prosperous for people everywhere. Partnering is at the heart of that effort. As USAID Administrator Samantha Power has noted, the quality of the Agency’s partnerships represents “the essence of whether the development we do will be sustained over time.” The New Partnerships Initiative (NPI) helps the Agency reach its partnering potential by improving collaboration with new, nontraditional, and local actors—while enhancing local leadership, capacity, and accountability in all that we do.
NPI was launched in 2019 as part of an effort to implement the principles of the Agency’s Acquisition and Assistance Strategy, primarily diversifying USAID’s partner base and changing how the Agency partners. NPI seeks to lower the barriers faced by nontraditional partners—including local actors, U.S. small businesses, faith-based organizations, cooperatives, diaspora groups, and civil society organizations—so that the Agency can embrace the diverse potential of the partnering community in pursuit of our shared development goals. To this end, NPI strives to support prospective partners in overcoming the informational imbalance typically faced by groups that have not directly received USAID funding when they compete with organizations that have. To do so, NPI helps make Agency information, resources, and funding opportunities more transparent and accessible to all of our potential partners.
NPI acknowledges the important role that USAID's traditional partners, including U.S.-based implementing partners, play in engaging new, nontraditional, and local partners. We know that development work is strengthened when established implementers: partner responsibly and equitably with local organizations to ensure local priorities are considered; empower local sub-awardees in decision-making; operate responsively and transparently to feedback from local communities; and develop capacity for local organizations to thrive.
NPI’s vision is to promote funding opportunities and capacity development that elevate local leadership to define the priorities that matter to their communities, design and implement solutions with the full range of development partners, mobilize resources across local systems, and foster accountability for the results.
- Promote local leadership. NPI works with local actors and traditional partners to strengthen local and national systems in ways that advance locally led development.
- Improve equity and inclusivity within partner relationships. NPI proactively seeks opportunities to engage more equitably and increase inclusion in operations and programming, particularly for those communities that traditionally have been overlooked by USAID and other donor agencies—including faith-based organizations, minority-serving institutions, and diaspora communities.
- Demonstrate accountability to constituents. Recognizing that USAID’s work is “from the American people” to the people of the world, NPI emphasizes the need to be equally accountable to the people in the communities in which we work as well as to the American taxpayer.
- Seek innovative approaches. NPI capitalizes on the full marketplace of ideas and solutions by collaborating with partners from all sectors of society, while developing partnerships that foster mutual accountability and develop local capacity.
- Lower barriers to partnerships. NPI identifies processes, norms, and regulations that prohibit potential partnerships and finds ways to mitigate them while maintaining appropriate safeguards on taxpayer resources.
- Identify new and nontraditional sources of funding. NPI fosters partnerships that leverage non-U.S. government funding sources to enhance local ownership and support effective collaboration across the spectrum of humanitarian and development funders.
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New Partnerships Initiative Accomplishments
The New Partnerships Initiative (NPI) has expanded USAID’s focus on awards to new and nontraditional partners. NPI currently supports 34 awards around the world, representing more than $400 million, to approximately 60 partners. To further embed NPI partnership approaches, NPI has worked with the Agency to establish a requirement for Missions and Operating Units to develop NPI Action Plans. These Action Plans were first developed for fiscal years 2019-2021, and 77 Missions participated, committing $3.1 billion in obligations for 1,069 activities aimed at new and local partners. NPI Action Plans will be regularly updated, providing an ongoing opportunity for NPI guidance on the latest partnership approaches to be introduced and incorporated into Agency operations.
Other important NPI accomplishments include:
- Improving resources for new partners on how to work with the Agency
- Designing and launching WorkwithUSAID.org. The site will help our prospective and existing partners access innovative tools and resources so they can learn how to better compete for funding.
- Engaging over 13,000 people through more than 60 internal and external events and 88 one-on-one partner consultations (in FY21).
- Updating and publishing ten new training modules on the How to Work with USAID training page.
- Creating four new YouTube videos to explain USAID partnership processes.
- Lowering barriers to entry for new and nontraditional partners
- Promoting the use of two-phase applications so that potential partners can submit a two-page concept note rather than a 50-page application, which reduces the workload to apply for funding.
- Encouraging the adoption of awards with a fixed value that is mutually agreed upon by USAID and the partner as a way of paying for development results rather than reimbursing the partner for their costs. These “fixed amount awards” help mitigate the perceived risks of working with first-time partners.
- Prioritizing local voices, knowledge, and leadership
- Expanding co-creation training and facilitation support for USAID staff has enabled co-creation to play a larger role in USAID solicitations. Co-creating an activity allows partners to have a greater voice in activity design and enables USAID activities to become better aligned with local priorities.
- Including a requirement for applicants within all new NPI awards in which non-local implementing partners must develop a plan that articulates how they will incorporate feedback and maintain accountability to the local populations among whom they will be working.
- Launching the Partnerships Incubator
- In support of NPI, the Agency established the Partnerships Incubator, which collaborates with USAID Missions, Bureaus, and Operating Units to empower new, nontraditional, and local actors, provide training, deliver capacity-building assistance, and develop resources for potential and existing partners.
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