By: Mahwish Javaid, Pakistan (Class 19. Host: Concern Worldwide)
Standing with diverse small group of people with backpacks and colorful hip garments, at 5:30 a.m. in front of trinity college Dublin –when awakening scumbled colors in greyish undertones of night, admiring voluntary yet impeccable work of man and nature, I couldn’t be less excited.
As much as I was happy about last well-spent week in meetings, only thing that stood between me and Irish countryside was a wait. As our expected tour bus parked along crib, our zealous tour guide, jumped out to greet us. I instantly liked him, and of course many long jokes that he narrated over next three days. I have learned over the years, it is close to impossible not to like people who believe in what they do and profuse passion with profession. He was one such guy and so was his skill of storytelling. Among many stories, one was about two men and an onlooker! Story goes like – One fine day there was a person passing by and saw a pair, working together to get, what it seems like, an odd job done. One man was digging a pit, sweating as he threw away earth, to make it big and deep enough, then move on to dig next one. However, his dear fellow behind, would start filling same pit, with great focus, till it is completely filled only to move on to next pit, dug up for him to fill. Person, the onlooker, kept watching for some time then surrendered by impatient curiosity towards mysteries of pit and may be with urge to move on with life, quietly he approaches one and asks, “Why are you digging this pit?” man at work, shrugs, “well it is my job”. Baffled, he approaches second one and repeats same question. Other man, equally indifferent, shrugs and says, “Well, it is my job, and I am doing what I need to do.” Not sure what else to say to solve mystery, person asks carefully, “Is it always you two working together?” First one tilts his head a bit, with a brief stare and exclaims, “Absolutely not! We have third companion who puts in a plant but he is gone for a week”. “oh well, why don’t you guys wait for him to come back then!”, obviously common sense. But now first one, while straightening his back and staring owner of question hard for his ignorance says as matter-of-fact, “We have work to do, when he comes back, I will be going for vacations, and then our third partner! If we keep waiting for each other, who’s gonna run the business here?” History is silent on what happened next!
Sarcastic as it may sound, but it stuck to me with its sheer wisdom and I will explain reason later on.
In my world of non-profit business and donor all we talk about is creating partnerships, bringing diverse skills together, creating synergies and to find solutions together by growing culture of innovations. Yet every day, like many others I struggle to figure out how to bring purpose, effort and skill on one ground and make it work together. It is tough job, easy said than done. Coordinating different mindsets, understanding diverse organizational cultures and marrying priorities is not an easy thing to do, and ironically, it can be as easy but it depends!
Does strategic partnership works? Yes, absolutely, not only it works but it breeds innovation, incubates better solutions and on top of all saves a lot of resources. Apparently, partnerships have worked all along, even for worse, so I don’t see why it can’t work for good.
In my most recent personal experience, Makers Hub is one such example of strategic partnership. It is an innovative space created in Nairobi University Kenya, by strategic partners Kenyatta National Hospital, University of Nairobi, JSI, Concern Worldwide and Melinda and Gates Foundation. Ambition is to have better quality, cost effective medical devices, Kenyatta made medical devices in an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Four years in to partnership, this program has not only attracted partners like Philips foundation but has played a significant role in creating entrepreneurial eco-system which may encourage young graduate doctors and engineers to partner for innovative spin-offs. Idea has been sowed to spurt in coming years.
Before I get carried away by chronicle of success stories, let’s talk about sweet failures and mistakes of partnerships. Funny Irish story – calling it Irish only because it was by Irish guy and believe me or not it was funny coming from him – which I narrated earlier reminded of such sweet failures. Standing on same ground, doing labor, one digging, one filling and plant person, a person with purpose, is not even there. If you want to hear my underline of story, I will say it happens fairly enough of time when partners work together, without communicating with each other, sharing burden to the point of exhaustion when government, a person with plant is not even present. Result is failure, at times catastrophe and bad experience.
Based on what I know, first is the vision, second is clarity, third is communication and fourth is engagement that makes a strategic partnership a success. For me these are four pillars that pilgrims have to circle around to consummate ritual of successful partnership. Otherwise we will still have an Irish joke to laugh about.
Mahwish Javaid is a women entrepreneur, and an aspiring lawyer. She has six years of experience in nonprofit sector, and earned a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) in Reproductive Physiology from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Mahwish studied effects of hormonal contraceptives and stress on reproductive health of women in Pakistan for her thesis. She joined UN Women in March 2014, as Project Officer; specifically, she worked on Gender Training and Capacity Building under the Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) program funded by United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS), in Sindh. Along with the International Labour Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, she helped to improve livelihoods of 2500 landless peasant women and 2000 informal women workers by enhancing access to social security services, food security, land tenancy agreements, and income generating opportunities. She supervised activities for disaster risk reduction, sanitation, and onsite trainings for gender mainstreaming, numeric literacy among women, and first aid in 120 villages. Her job profile encapsulated skills of project coordination, policy advocacy, women’s entrepreneurship, and capacity building to realize the goals of the program. Mahwish has been winner of national essay writing competition, and debate competitions and has also held leadership positions in the Scientific Academic Society, Quaidian Intellectual Forum, and Literary and Debating Society, respectively, in her university. She hopes not only to be a skilled social entrepreneur herself, but also to develop a successful model which can be replicated at macro-scale.