Why development partnerships are a lot like falling in love - One Girl

Why development partnerships are a lot like falling in love


We have a new partner in our life, and we can’t wait for you to meet them. But before we introduce you, we’ve got to back up a bit to answer one of the most common questions we are asked as a non profit:

How does One Girl educate girls?

Or, how does One Girl actually reach and educate girls in Sierra Leone and Uganda – and how do we know we’re having an impact?

There are lots of ways to answer this question, but the first thing we do is we work in partnership. One Girl as an organisation has its office in Melbourne, Australia. Which is quite literally on the other side of the world to the countries we work in: Sierra Leone and Uganda.

So how do we actually implement our education programs? It’s through partner organisations and local staff on the ground. In Sierra Leone we partner with local NGOs, international NGOs, and we have a kickass in-country staff team that work to implement our programs. In Uganda we focus on implementing programs through already established local and international NGOs.

What’s a partnership? Well like any good relationship – a program partnership is about shared values, aligned missions, open communication, and a deep understanding and respect for each other. And as we’ll go on to explain, a partnership between organisations is a lot like falling in love. Don’t believe us? Read on…

Lots of organisations get in contact with One Girl wanting to partner with us to implement programs. And sometimes we get in contact with organisations that we want to partner with. Either way, someone makes contact (sometimes that means literally asking for our digits) and we start a conversation.

It’s the job of the Programs team to meet with these different organisations, evaluate their programs, and see if they fit within our girl-focused education programs. All of our partners complete something called a “partner capacity assessment”, which includes ensuring the partner is registered in-country as a legitimate NGO, are financially sound (very important as we need to trust them to spend our donors’ hard-earned dollars effectively) and of course – they need to have a vision and mission that aligns with ours. You want to make sure you’re entering a relationship with someone that you see a real future with.


Once we’ve sussed each other out, things get a little more serious. We have working agreements or MOUs (or Memorandum of Understanding, which sounds fancier but is harder to spell!) with each partner organization that clearly states the roles and responsibilities of each organisation, and reporting requirements. But of course, we can’t just jump straight into a full-blown relationship. You don’t move in with your partner after the first date, right?

All new partners go through a one-year pilot phase, which means that we fund a short one-year project. If all goes well we extend the project contract to 2 years, which we have recently done with our Business Brains project that is implemented through our partner organisation, Restless Development in Sierra Leone. There are lots of reasons why partnerships don’t work – so we don’t want to commit too much too early, before we’ve had a chance to test the partnership. Every dollar donated to us matters – and we want to make sure it’s being spent as effectively as possible.


Another question that comes up often is, “why don’t we set up a One Girl office in Uganda like we have in Sierra Leone?”

There are a few different reasons for this, the first is simply that Sierra Leone and Uganda are very different countries with their own unique needs and NGO environment. In Uganda there are so many organisations at the local, national and international level who already run girl-focused education programs. Having experienced the growing pains and learning many lessons in setting up our Sierra Leone staff team, we decided to go down a different path in Uganda.

Instead of reinventing the wheel and setting up yet another in-country office, we’ve chosen to work through already established or establishing partners. We’ve decided to focus on smaller, grassroots and local community-based organisations that may need some organisational support, where we have the opportunity to add value and help them grow and thrive.

So, with all that said… we have an exciting announcement!

Why does this feel a bit like bringing a new partner home to meet the fam? 😉

Just a few months ago we finalised a brand new partnership with a local community-based organisation – Bulogo Women’s Group (BWG) in Uganda!

Our story started back in July 2016, when BWG approached us over email to work with them. So we started talking. And over a period of 6 months we conducted due diligence on them as an organisation, which included the partner capacity assessment we mentioned earlier, as well as a project proposal and financial review.

BWG is a community-based NGO founded in 2004 in Kamuli district of Uganda (3 hours from Kampala). Its mission is to empower girls, women, and communities in Kamuli district, through education, agriculture, entrepreneurship training, health, and environment conservation.

We were aligned in so many ways and were excited by the possibility of working with them to reach thousands of girls and women in rural Uganda. So after doing the long distance thing for a while, it was time to meet IRL and visit the Bulogo team in Uganda to finalise the partnership.

Here’s Morgan and Anita with some of the BWG team in Uganda last year!


In 2017 we will be funding the following projects through the Bulogo Womens’ Group:

Girl Child Dignity Campaign

This project is all about creating a culture of understanding and awareness of the dignity of girls – and the important role they have to play in their families and communities. BWG will be working with local leaders, schools, and communities, to advocate for the rights of girls and boys to be free from violence, with a particular emphasis on harmful practices, such as child marriage, gender based violence, teenage pregnancies, and their impact on girls.

We’ll be training 100 village health workers and key leaders within the community on women’s health – so that they can then advocate and educate on these issues.


As part of this project, secondary school girls and boys will also receive menstrual health and hygiene education. 3,000 secondary school girls will also be provided with sanitary pads to help them get back and stay in school. We’ll be using a mix of disposable, biodegradable pads (Makapads) and reusable pads (Afripads) – and conducting small scale research throughout the project to learn more about sanitary product use and the best methods to offer the girls.

This project will also see the establishment of 100 Girls Clubs in order to spread the message of the importance of girls’ education, preventing teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence, and more. The girls in these clubs will be empowered to educate their peers (as well as parents and their communities) through debates, discussions, trainings, poems, music, writing and more.


Business Brains in Uganda

Through BWG we’ll be bringing a version of Business Brains into Uganda. In 2017 this means we’ll be empowering 200 girls and women with entrepreneurship skills. These 200 girls will take part in business training over a four-month, gaining skills and knowledge to succeed as a business owner.

Each of the Business Brains students will then start a small scale business, and they’ll continue to receive mentoring and support from the business coaches to ensure success into the future.


Like any new relationship, we’re looking forward to sharing our stories and experiences with all of you – but also some of the lessons we’re learning and the challenges we face along the way.

We know that no relationships are perfect, and we want to bring you along on that journey – and we’re committed to sharing the good along with the bad.

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