Betwixt & Between

Issue #4

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Welcome to the fourth issue of the Journal of Partnership Brokering!

Humanitarian emergencies have become larger, more numerous, more frequent, more complex. This in turn has had a knock-on effect on the humanitarian sector as it juggles the humanitarian challenge and its ability to respond with efficiency and effectiveness. In this special issue, we have brought together wide ranging insights and  experiences from across the humanitarian spectrum, which illustrate the role brokers can play in improving capacity, accountability, leadership and impact of humanitarian collaboration; and the brokering skills and attributes which might be well suited to humanitarian partnerships.

In 2007, the Global Humanitarian Platform introduced The Principles of Partnership (Equality, Transparency, Results-Oriented Approach, Responsibility and Complementarity) as a framework with guiding principles for humanitarian agencies to factor into their operations and improve engagement with national actors and civil society partners. Anecdotal evidence from agencies reveals that putting these principles into practice has proved to be challenging. In her article, Catherine Russ raises some of the challenges and lessons learnt from putting these Principles into practice. Drawing on experiences from across different sectors and organisations, including the Partnership Brokers Association, she suggests that a partnership broker can play an important facilitative role in embedding the principles into humanitarian partnerships.

In his article, David Hockaday asserts that although multi-stakeholder collaboration can indeed play a key role in addressing the challenges that bedevil the humanitarian sector, the existing system needs to re-orient itself to put the local actors firmly at the centre. And if this is to become the mainstream way of working, humanitarian workers need to adopt new skills, behaviours and competencies. The idea of the emergence of a “humanitarian broker” will be well served, he argues, by humanitarian practitioners, managers and executives, embracing the tenets of ‘servant leadership’, using the language of the broker and changing their staff recruitment and selection approach.

In her article, Mariana Merelo Lobo argues that practitioners in the humanitarian sector must have the capacity to ‘do’ but also ‘be’ with affected communities. She suggests that there is a side to their work which complements the more traditional humanitarian response, striving for change by consciously exercising humanity, presence and collaboration. Mariana calls this the soft humanitarian field. Building on her own humanitarian, partnership, management and coaching experience, she suggests that creative partnership brokering is a powerful way to assert the soft humanitarian field. She describes three main qualities in creative partnership brokering: grounding the partnership process, collaborating insightfully, and living values. The article includes some practical exercises for expanding creativity and resourcefulness for practitioners involved in collaborative humanitarian work.

The kinds of empathetic attributes, leadership and coaching skills Mariana advocates not only suit the humanitarian context but have wider application where brokers help build local capacity and foster self-reliance and self-determination of communities through participatory mechanisms for longer term impact. These mechanisms might include those that encourage the use of local resources and capacities as much as possible in humanitarian response; engage beneficiaries in developing solutions to reduce future vulnerabilities; and operate with respect to local culture and customs.

There is often criticism that when aid comes in with short-term goals and imported disaster management strategies, it leaves local communities dependant on foreign support and solutions that may not fit. The gap between short-term humanitarian and long-term development strategies remains wide. In her article based on the Latin American experience, Ana Acuña-Dengo, asserts that dependency on external intervention must end. She draws inspiration from a personal source – her grandfather Jorge Manuel Dengo Obregón. Probably one of Latin America’s first brokers, he recognised that the humanitarian sector could only succeed through partnerships which guide and empower vulnerable communities to build their own path to development.

In their article, Yuri Tsitrinbaum and Simon Clement present another case for empowering local communities to respond to humanitarian challenges. In the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the civilian population has been suffering endemic violence and repeated violations of human rights over the past 20 years. In the face of largely unsuccessful interventions by UN and other agencies, the communities are often left to fend for themselves. In this situation, the necessity for them to build their own capacity to minimise incidents of human rights abuse, protect themselves and work with the most appropriate humanitarian, government and other actors becomes crucial. Taking on a brokering role, Caritas Bukavu and Caritas Spain initiated a civilian protection project in the DRC which focused on developing a model which befitted the local structures and traditions of the communities.

The growth in the number, scale and frequency of humanitarian crises puts pressure on bilateral and other aid funding mechanisms. With fewer discretionary resources available for disaster relief and international development, more value is expected from the investment. Consequently, we see more demand for analysis and scrutiny of humanitarian operations, demonstrated by a growing number of evaluations and accountability mechanisms being applied across the sector. In her article, Emily Claire Poupart draws on the Skills for Negotiation project, implemented in Myanmar by a Canadian-led consortium, to suggest that partners and partnership brokers need to reflect on the costs and benefits of partnerships that go beyond transaction costs to seek richer outcomes from brokered partnerships.

She suggests that we borrow the Value for Money concept to explore the role of the broker in creating an understanding of value creation in the context of partnerships delivering humanitarian and development programmes.

The diversity of the insights and experiences shared in this issue of the Journal from the humanitarian sector all add to our knowledge of what partnership brokers as managers of the partnering process do: they wear multiple hats and perform a range of roles as leaders, business managers, change agents, coaches, connectors, healers, innovators and much more.



S.HundalAfter a career in the corporate sector, Surinder Hundal is now working specifically in the field of cross-sector partnerships, partnership brokering and partnership evaluation. She works as an independent accredited partnership broke and as a specialist in corporate social responsibility. She sits on the Board of the Partnership Brokers Association (PBA), the international professional association for partnership brokers. She holds a post-graduate certificate in Cross-sector Partnerships from the University of Cambridge.  Surinder has worked in Asia Pacific, Europe, the USA, the Middle East and Africa, principally in telecommunications businesses such as Nokia and BT, where she led multi-faceted communications, strategy, marketing, corporate responsibility and partnership development roles.  She also led policy and communications at International Business Leaders Forum. Surinder can be reached on

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