1.3.2 Program Delivery Strategy: Partnerships for Success, Sustainability, and Scaling

The second major area of lessons learned relates to program delivery strategy, and, in particular, structuring partnerships and relationships in order to establish and scale-up programs that serve youth workforce clients effectively.

  • Multi-stakeholder (MSPs) partnerships—including the local public and education sectors, local and international private sector, and the local NGO community—are necessary to increase the chances for success and sustainability and, relatedly, to reduce the chance of failure

Local and international Community Service Organizations (CSOs), local governments, the private sector, and bilateral and multilateral organizations (donors) were highlighted as key entities in multi-stakeholder partnerships. Each brings unique contributions and accrues different benefits from partnerships.

1.3.2.1 Noteworthy Results: Career Development Centers in Egypt: A Success Story in Praivate Sector Engagement

Under the USAID seed-funded Education and Employment Alliance (EEA) program in Egypt (2006- 2009), the International Youth Foundation (IYF) worked with local partners, including EEA Secretariat and Egyptian NGO Nahdet El Mahrousa (NM), to establish two of the first Career Development Centers in a public university setting in Egypt (among other innovative program models supported by the program). These centers were established on the campuses of the Faculties of Engineering at Cairo and Ain Shams Universities. All are located in Cairo. The programs and services offered at the Career Development Centers complement the more technical and theoretical training engineering students were learning in the classroom. The Career Development Centers provided employment-relevant soft and life skills training, career counseling, and entrepreneurship development training. Throughout the EEA program, many partners collaborated and were able to leverage the initial seed funding USAID provided to bring into the initiative additional support and resources. Examples of these partners are those aforementioned along with the following, which provided in-kind support: Cisco (training), Hewlett Packard (high tech computer lab), Samsung (follow-on funding), and the local private sector (training curricula, internships and job placements). Because of these partnerships and the leverage they produced, EEA supported interventions were able to reach 17,000 beneficiaries, surpassing its initial target of 11,000. The Career and Entrepreneurship Development Office (CEDO) at Cairo University still serves students and has expanded beyond the Faculty of Engineering to reach multiple campus faculties. CEDO has also begun to generate income to help cover operation costs. Currently, NM is in the process of expanding the CEDO model throughout Egypt based on MOUs signed during the EEA program.

1.3.2.2 Bright Ideas: Education For Employment Foundation (EFE) Establishes Local Organizations--Not Branches--in Each Country Where it Operates

For example, EFE-Maroc is a local Moroccan organization—part of an international network and not a branch office. The local team is able to operate with a full understanding of the unique Moroccan context and quickly and efficiently address any issues that may arise. A local staff also allows for greater cultural understanding and strengthening of the civil society in the country. In EFE’s experience reliance on local organizations:

  • Facilitates interactions with local partners and governments;
  • Provides the necessary cultural background to help students deal with challenges successfully as sometimes when working with youth, organizations may face challenges emanating from families or communities of young people, so having a similar cultural background or understanding can often alleviate some of the concerns;
  • Enables effective communication with local communities, particularly when selecting students and participants, engaging them in the application process, and launching volunteerism programs in local communities. Local teams facilitate working with Community Based Organizations (CBO) where sometimes even the access to these CBOs may be challenging;
  • Promotes sustainability beyond the existence of international attention and funding, particularly in terms of ongoing work for the targeted group or community. Having a local team that is permanently based in their own country creates stronger roots for the organization, allowing it to form longer lasting relationships with its students, community and businesses. This will eventually help them garner enough support from their own country institutions and businesses, allowing them to secure local funding and continue working.

 

Many presenters reported that relying on partnerships with local CSOs has been a main driver of success. These partnerships ensured localization of program approach, content, outreach strategy, and ownership. Both the perception of youth-focused workforce development efforts as “homegrown,” and the reality of local expertise, contribute to greater impact and sustainability.

Implementers admitted that reliance on local organizations is not necessarily the easiest path in the short-term, as local CSOs may require significant capacity building in order to succeed in complex workforce-related missions. Providing CSOs with the right tools and capacity building experiences, then, is a key role for donors and implementing partners.

Local Governments

Local government engagement offers access to target populations at scale and the prospect for institutionalizing effective approaches. At the same time, in many contexts, it is difficult or impossible to succeed without the engagement of the government: officials may feel threatened by initiatives that bypass or do not recognize the importance of an explicit role for government, can limit access to youth populations, or create difficulties for other cooperating institutions. Additionally, some governments would strongly prefer to control budgets and implement programs themselves. Presenters reported overcoming these challenges through early engagement, and by establishing, or relying on existing, local entities.

Donors

Inclusion of bilateral and multilateral donors in Multi-sectoral Partnerships (MSPs) is rarely optional given their resource capacity for funding pilot projects. Other key donor roles include ensuring accountability through monitoring, evaluation, and impact assessment, local and global institutional knowledge, and prospects for more widespread scaling of successful approaches.

1.3.2.3 Practical Tips: Principles of Effective Multi-Sectoral Partnerships

ManpowerGroup shares the following practical tips for establishing effective multi-sectoral partnerships:

  • Establish a common goal based as the basis of partnership, rooted in a common (or consistent) diagnosis of the problem.
  • Manage across differences—For example, the concept of time may be different for private sector and civil society. Differences must be acknowledged and managed well.
  • Openly communicate feedback. For example, you might say, “you know what, I don’t like what you did or what you said. I have a concern.”
  • Seek “best in class partners” that can deliver on their commitments.
  • Ensure that there is an empowered person responsible for success in each organization.

 

  • Program-related partnerships with the private sector are more effective if implementers can articulate programs’ value that appeals to businesses’ “bottom line” while working to reduce businesses’ engagement costs and risks

Private employers constitute the major source of potential job and internship opportunities for workforce development clients, and are therefore critical to have as actively engaged partners. Both local and international private employers can play central roles in the success of workforce development efforts. The participation of flagship firms (often with better defined human resources strategies) can raise the profile of initiatives and attract more partners. Yet most conference participants defined their success by the breadth and diversity of private sector participation, not simply by their ability to attract large/prestigious international partners.

Working with the private sector was an important theme in the 2010 GYEOC and this year generated a number of interesting new insights. The following lessons learned reported by participants apply to businesses at many scales.

  • Bring diverse private sector partners/representatives into the process early to allow them to inform/influence program design

It is difficult to create demand-driven programs without obtaining a thorough understanding of demand early on, and taking this input seriously by tailoring programs to this input. Private sector participation cannot be an afterthought. At the same time, implementers should recognize that different businesses have different concerns and seek different benefits/value from participation in youth workforce development partnerships. Investments in targeted outreach to those businesses that can benefit from partnerships (e.g., because they work in growing sectors, have difficulty in employee retention, or other motives), and try to understand business’ specific needs early in the process.

  • Appeal to a business’s bottom line

Conference participants agreed that programs that appeal only to corporate social responsibility, rather than to a business’s bottom line, are less sustainable. Most critical for implementers is speaking the language of “business benefit,” and articulating the benefits of partnership in terms of tangible business value. In addition to productivity improvements resulting from well-trained workers, other “bottom-line benefits” may include:

  • Lowering recruiting costs and improving retention: Particularly where labor market exchange and information is under-developed, youth workforce development programs may be the best option for businesses to access well-qualified new employees. ManpowerGroup has estimated that companies can save up to 10 percent of an employee’s first-year salary costs by partnering with EFE Foundation on advertising, recruiting, screening and interviewing.
  • Creating positive public relations: Wherever they are ultimately employed, former interns constitute a cadre of goodwill “ambassadors” who are generally grateful for the entrée in to the labor market provided by host companies. Participation may also improve companies’ relationships with government.
  • Harnessing Technology: Businesses report benefitting from youth’s familiarity and high comfort level with new technologies, particularly social media and ecommerce.
  • Formalizing Human Resources Function(s): Small businesses often do not have well-defined human resources procedures. Workforce development partnerships can provide expertise in defining job descriptions, career paths, and formalizing and improving their recruiting and human resources functions generally.
  • Reduce the cost and risk of partnership by providing supporting information and resources

Because many businesses are unfamiliar with internships and other youth engagement, implementers can offer related services to reduce businesses’ direct and indirect costs of participation, and increase probability of business and learner success and satisfaction. For example, the El Salvador’s Joven 360 program created an “internship toolkit,”1 a turnkey solution that defines 25 internship profiles in five areas: Human Resources; Production, Operations and Logistics; Sales and Marketing; Information Technology; and Finance. For example, in Human Resources, projects include evaluating staff training needs and creating training manuals. In Sales and Marketing, one profile has interns evaluate the impact of, and/or design campaigns, using social media. These are standardized project ideas include work plans, management guides, and monitoring tools to minimize employers’ internship management burden and reduce uncertainty:

  • Be honest about organization’s and clients’ situation, capabilities and capacity: Few partners will expect perfection from organizations or workforce development clients. They are, in fact, likely to understand acutely the limitations of the local workforce. They are likely to interpret overly optimistic or exaggerated appraisals of students and programs as misrepresentation, and to regard omissions as dishonesty.
  • A long-term/sustained strategy is required to overcome lack of collaboration tradition: Convincing businesses to participate in new activities and roles such as internships, job placement, and mentoring, will likely take time. Once initiated, optimizing these relationships will also require sustained efforts and commitment. Implementers should adopt a long-term orientation towards these relationships.
  • Build Technology Platforms to Permit Scaling of Time Consuming/Costly Activities Such As M&E and “Matching”

Technology is not a panacea for workforce development, but a number of program examples presented at the 2011 Conference demonstrate the use of technology to support active labor market interventions and training.

“Matchmaking.” Database technology can be particularly valuable for labor-intensive and difficult “matching” tasks, including matching skills and attributes of potential interns to job requirements, as in El Salvador’s Joven 360, and in EFE Foundation’s use of an automated application and selection process. Making these matches manually would have been both costly and extremely time consuming.

Communicating with dispersed youth populations. Souktel, an organization that connects employers to job seekers using SMS and mobile audio technology, partners with EFE Foundation in Morocco and operates in markets throughout the Middle East. This technology serves both a matching and communication function.2 Joven 360’s internship portal allows students to develop professional profiles and maintain contact with the program, saving significant time and transportation costs compared to the required in-person contact.

Program monitoring: Joven 360 and EFE Foundation both articulated important roles for technology in gathering feedback from program participants and employer partners, and in monitoring participants’ success over the longer term. Particularly where organizations intend to replicate programs throughout a network of partner organizations, a set of technology tools that are aligned to program activities can make scaling-up and tracking growing populations much smoother.

1.3.2.4 Practical Tips: EFE Foundation's Lessons Learned in Scaling-Up from Across the Middle East Region

EFE Foundation offered the following principles for designing scalable interventions, based on a synthesis of project experience in Egypt, Palestine, Yemen and Morocco:

  • Start small and then grow after you have established credibility. Proof of concept is a crucial step, particularly in the MENA. Starting small, launching initial pilot programs, and documenting the success, communicating it to partners and stakeholders, allows the organization to expand its programming and funding having gained the support of local community and business leaders.
  • Don’t try to start-up everywhere at once. Establish programs “market-by-market” (regionally) with local partners at each step. Although country dynamics and laws differ between neighboring countries, many challenges faced by startups are similar across the MENA region. So starting in one country, building some knowledge and expertise in setting up and launching programming, allows for a certain degree of anticipation of obstacles that may be faced in the next country expansion.

Additionally, proximity between the two countries may allow for cross border transfer of knowledge, expertise, and refinement and adaptation of

previous programming based on monitoring and evaluation results and findings.

  • Use technology strategically to automate costly and time-consuming processes like applications and matching, and to gather feedback from partners. As the numbers trained and placed in jobs grow, it becomes imperative to automate student application, selection, monitoring and evaluation and job placement mechanisms. This frees up staff members to focus on other capacity building and program implementation goals rather than spending large amounts of time calling applicants and partners to collect data and enter it into excel sheets. Establish private sector partnerships that lower program costs. Through in kind contributions and job commitments, the private sector can play a big role in reducing the costs of implementation and other costs associated with outreach and job placements for youth. Invest heavily in communications and public relations. Success needs to be communicated. This does not need to be on a large scale with big budgets, but ensuring you know who your audience is, how to reach them and what to say is key. In countries where word of mouth plays a big role, ensuring that you are communicating clearly and effectively can be a huge success driver.