It was following a EU-CORD ‘Funding and Partnerships Workshop’ in October 2019 hosted by Leprosy Mission in London that Paula Konttinen (FIDA) and Robert Osborne (Sign of Hope), who had both attended the workshop, started the East Africa EU-CORD forum jointly. Paula contacted all the initial participants, hosted and coordinated the meetings for the first two years thus taking the initiative by bringing workshop delegates together in Nairobi to build on their friendships and shared interests in East Africa development and so started to build the first ‘In-Country EU-CORD Forum’. At the beginning, informal monthly coffee gatherings were arranged. Participants shared their interests in learning, research, collaboration ideas and grant applications. An active WhatsApp group emerged and HQ support was granted which encouraged everyone to continue. In time a ‘collaboration statement’ was drafted which outlined their thematic interests, their common relationship in the EU-CORD network and consortia ideas. This was used to introduce forum members to the EU-delegation starting a donor relationship which has led to four concept note submissions with success with one leading to a full proposal submission in 2022. Two others are awaiting decisions.
In 2021 the suitability of the Kenya ‘model’ was to be tested by rolling the model out further when Ruth Faber introduced a new strategy to explore the possibility of establishing forums in new countries. Quickly forums came into being in Uganda and Ethiopia helped by Anders Jacobsen (LM International) and in Myanmar where an EU concept note was submitted. Since then, forums have started in Bangladesh, South Sudan and south-east Asia. Requests have been received by the Secretariat to explore the possibility of starting new forums in Nepal, The Philippines, DRC and Ukraine later in 2023.
Local leadership with direction developed by participants has led to each forum following its own unique direction. Learning from each other, finding opportunities for collaboration and building friendships while finding opportunities to seek donor funding has drawn willing participants together. The need for technical capacity building in understanding how DG INTPA works and how the application process functions as well as understanding who other potential donors are has created opportunity for the EU-CORD Secretariat and others to provide support drawing on Secretariat donor experience.
The shared features of all our forums is for there to be a convener, a leader who brings people together for meetings and hosts. This is often rotated on an annual or quarterly basis.
Having EU-CORD as the core is proving to be useful in many ways. The combined scale of EU-CORD member work impresses donors and opens doors (26 Europe based members working in more than 87 countries on humanitarian and development projects covering virtually all thematic areas) when included in an introductory statement to a ‘business case’. Local advocacy, when linked to EU-CORD’s work with Tabeth Masengu (EU-CORD Advocacy Officer) brings scale and added advocacy specialist support. Adrian Hawthorn is now providing support to forum leaders through discussing annual plans, sharing ideas and by providing training sessions on specific topics of interest when forums meet e.g. building consortia and meeting the donor etc. Adrian is also organising leaders’ meetings and an annual virtual conference for forum participants. Here ideas and challenges are shared, and fresh inspiration provided.
Being known by donors is so important. Many calls in 2023 by DG INTPA country delegations are ‘direct’ meaning that the donor invites INGO’s to make an application. Only those known to the delegation will be considered for such an invitation. A good place to start is with donor mapping to find out which donors are providing funding in your country. PerspActive continues to provide a weekly list of ‘open calls’, very useful through saving time screening donor websites. Sopeat Kiers-Mer (Teafund NL) has started a group looking at how Brussels connections can support member interests.
Perhaps the reasons the EU-CORD in-country forums are proving to be so popular is that we are stronger when we work together, combining our knowledge, skills, resources and thinking. When we collaborate on donor applications we are able to pool our creativity and design projects at greater scale. Donors are offering larger grants to applicants and that means that often these can only be accessed by those working at scale and in collaboration.
Later this year EU-CORD will be running a physical workshop in Nairobi 20-22 November ‘DG INTPA Grants and Partnerships Workshop’ (please register here). On 15th November, a virtual all-day meeting for ‘In-Country Forum Members’ will be held. You can register here for this meeting.
The Ethiopia Forum sent me this photo taken at their last meeting. Please send Adrian (Adrian.email@example.com) a picture of your next forum meeting so we can include them in the next newsletter, ‘Focus on Forums’. Finally, if you are interested in participating in the new forums planned for DRC, Ukraine, The Philippines or Nepal this autumn please let Adrian know.