Exploring the potential of partnerships in the creation of human development. Ferrovial case study

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By Inma Borrella, member of the itdUPM

  • itdUPM has analysed the partnership established between the company Ferrovial and the NGO ONGAWA to improve the access to water and sanitation in Same district, Tanzania.
  • The key success factors of this collaboration were: flexibility, service-oriented approach, exploitation of synergies, balance and trust.

Increasingly more companies want to play a significant role in the creation of human development, evolving from being funding organizations to becoming direct participants in development projects.

Ferrovial, one of the main infrastructure firms in the world, is one of these companies. In order to participate more directly in development cooperation projects it has created the program “Social Infrastructures”. Through this program, the company finances projects focused on building and maintaining infrastructures in Africa and Latin America.

Ferrovial collaborates closely with several NGO to plan and execute these projects. The contribution of Ferrovial employees through a corporate volunteering program is particularly relevant.

A business-NGO partnership usually brings benefits to both organizations, and the combination of their complementary abilities can significantly improve the project results.

Nevertheless, this model of collaboration is not commonly found in the Spanish development cooperation outlook, because its implementation is far from simple.

Businesses and NGO use different languages, pursue dissimilar but complementary goals, and their modus operandi is quite distinct.

itdUPM has analysed the partnership established between the company Ferrovial and the NGO ONGAWA to improve the access to water and sanitation in Same district, Tanzania.

These two organizations jointly carried out a project between August 2011 and June 2013. Ferrovial funded the project with 245.000 euros and five Ferrovial employees participated as volunteers.

Around 27.000 people are currently benefiting from the water supply system that was built by this project.

The key success factors of this collaboration were: flexibility, service-oriented approach, exploitation of synergies, balance and trust.

The incorporation of the funding organization in the execution of the project provides flexibility, because it facilitates the introduction of any modification to the original plan when needed.

Carrying out projects with a service-oriented approach is quite usual in the business sector, however it is not so commonly found in the development cooperation field. In this case, both organizations shared this approach, however they had to adjust some of their initial expectations due to the existing restrictions.

Both organizations work in technical areas and have a huge number of engineers in their workforce. This synergy helped to reduce the business-NGO language barrier and eased the communication.

It is essential to establish simple and efficient management systems in order to guarantee the power and participation balance needed in a partnership.

Finally, building trust through transparency and continuous dialogue is very important.

This study also reveals some of the benefits for the participating organizations generated by a business-NGO partnership.

First, employees’ motivation and pride of belonging has increased after participating in this project. On the one hand, Ferrovial employees appreciate belonging to a company that cares about the challenges of poverty and acts in consequence.  On the other hand, ONGAWA employees have seen their work recognised by business technical experts.

The reputation of both organizations has improved. Ferrovial demonstrated a company can contribute to human development when it gets involved in the execution of projects that are aligned to its core business. ONGAWA showed how NGO work professionally and can have a very high technical level.

Finally, both organizations developed new abilities due to their need to adapt to a complex context and collaborate with new partners.

Strategic collaborations between businesses and NGO in the development cooperation field involve significant efforts for participant organizations. Nonetheless, these collaborations can lead to very positive outcomes, such as improved project results and benefits for the organizations in terms of image and development of new abilities.

Más allá de la donación. Una experiencia de colaboración empresa-ONG para mejorar el acceso al agua en Tanzania (Report available only in Spanish)

infografia_agua_tanzania Download the infography in PDF (content in Spanish)

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