#DFIDCSPR: 7 things you need to know

3 November 2015
Author: Sarah Mistry

How can the Department for International Development (DFID) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) work together to achieve change? We’re now two-thirds of the way through a Civil Society Partnership Review (CSPR), initiated by DFID to come up with some answers to this question.

The review’s outcomes are due to be announced in December 2015. During a recent interactive CSPR breakfast with Bond members, the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, set out what she hopes the review will achieve. Here are the seven key points:

1. Civil society organisations will continue to be important to DFID as delivery agents and more

DFID disburses £1.4 billion of bilateral funding annually to CSOs, around 25% of all bilateral expenditure. DFID values the vital contribution civil society makes to its work. As we implement the Sustainable Development Goals, civil society will be critical in ensuring we "leave no-one behind" and bringing particular benefits of knowledge, reach, voice and networks. DFID will continue to support the strengthening of civil society in the south, but also in the UK.

2. Collaboration will be key to solving long-term development problems

Partnerships, consortia and alliances between CSOs and others from business, academia and the public sector will be needed to provide the range of skills and expertise to address complex development challenges. CSOs are encouraged to forge these relationships, while DFID recognises that genuine partnership formation takes time and resource, as in BRACED.

3. DFID wants to be a "cutting edge" funder

Greening said she hears many positive stories about DFID’s work worldwide. DFID is seen as the vanguard of funders, but it needs to keep upping its game across the range of its work to ensure it achieves maximum value for every pound of taxpayer money. Following the completion of the review, DFID will set out an overarching strategy and roadmap for its relationship with civil society.

4. CSOs need to get better at demonstrating their value

Greening challenged CSOs to get better at measuring and communicating what they achieve. She cited "opportunity cost" and "value at risk" to encourage CSOs to develop better ways of assessing the long-term value of preventative interventions such as resilience-building. CSOs need to make the case better and have confidence in measuring the short and long-term impact of their work.

5. DFID will improve its approach to relationship management

Greening described how she had challenged private sector contactors to deliver greater collective value to DFID. This resulted in suppliers voluntarily signing up to a new code of conduct. DFID will apply that learning to an improved relationship management approach, which they will pilot with some CSOs.

6. DFID will streamline its funding instruments

Programme Partnership Agreements (PPAs) will end on 31 December 2016. Any new approaches will be announced alongside other CSPR outcomes. DFID has heard the case for flexible funding in helping to enable organisational transformation, risk-taking and on occasion, some innovation. While DFID may reduce the number of different funding schemes, it will continue to ensure funding is accessible to all sizes and types of CSOs. Staffing at DFID continues to be constrained: outsourced CSO funding models will continue to be implemented where appropriate.

7. DFID and CSOs both need to adapt to be fit for the future

In a rapidly changing external environment, all organisations need to be agile, constantly innovating and adapting to ensure they are relevant. The CSPR provides an opportunity to revisit how DFID can best enable a civil society that is as future-proofed as possible. This must involve CSOs diversifying business models, amending their approaches and responding more effectively to the operating environment. It also must involve DFID reviewing funding instruments, incentives and strategy to enable civil society to achieve transformational change.

Read more about the CSPR.

About the author

Sarah Mistry

Sarah is director of programmes and partnerships at Bond.