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Community Contribution

Engaging Nontraditional and Local Partners in Collective Action: Spotlight on the New Partnerships Initiative

Nov 23, 2022
Arjun Tasker, DDI/LFT/NPI

Development challenges involve complex interactions among people, organizations, and institutions. To better tackle these challenges, practitioners must pay close attention to these relationships and look for partnership opportunities. From a programming standpoint, this means early, direct, and intentional engagement with all types of stakeholders and a deliberate focus on prioritizing local voices, knowledge, and leadership.

As a means to expand USAID's partner base and engage new, nontraditional, and local partners, USAID relaunched the New Partnerships Initiative (NPI) in 2019. NPI's vision is to promote funding opportunities and capacity development that elevate local leadership to define the priorities that matter to their communities, design and implement solutions with the full range of development partners, mobilize resources across local systems, and foster accountability for results. By improving partnerships with local actors, the Agency can harness the diverse potential of the partnering community in pursuit of our shared development goals.

NPI spends a lot of time thinking about how to build stronger partnerships. Although we do not have funds to issue our own awards, we support USAID Missions to design solicitations and awards that enable the Agency to better partner with nontraditional and local partners. Our work is global in scope and sector agnostic; the focus is on enabling collaboration with all types of actors who traditionally have faced barriers to accessing USAID funds yet possess tremendous knowledge, relationships, and capacity.  

One programming approach that NPI commends is Collective Action: an intentional and agreed-upon process that engages interested parties to take joint actions in support of shared objectives or a shared issue. The Collective Action process identifies and actively involves relevant stakeholders to address the development challenges and opportunities of interest. Engaging stakeholders involves a coordinated, deliberate effort to align and integrate a coalition's actions. Collective Action is not always the right approach to tackle a problem, but when it is, it is incredibly effective in mobilizing diverse actors to achieve shared objectives. 

The Collective Action approach focuses on relationships as a means to accelerate results and embodies NPI's principles of promoting local leadership and improving equity and inclusivity within partner relationships. Collective Action is critical to helping us achieve this and shift more leadership, ownership, decision-making, evaluation, and implementation to the local people and institutions with the capability, connectedness, and credibility to propel change in their communities. 

Collective Action emphasizes many practices relevant to new and local partners, such as co-creation and capacity strengthening. It also enables diverse local actors to come together and develop a thorough understanding of local systems, contexts, stakeholders, and their roles and responsibilities to affect change.

The Collective Action approach can result in a stronger, more locally-led approach to tackling the development or humanitarian challenge and open up the possibilities for creative synergies and innovation from those providing the solutions. If the Collective Action approach is new to you and you want to learn more, check out the Collective Action Guides on Learning Lab. Resources include answers to common questions about Collective Action, case studies from USAID activities as well as practical guides to Collective Action which illustrate the processes, know-how, and considerations for embarking on a Collective Action journey.


The Collective Action Blog Series features posts from guest authors highlighting how Collective Action relates to their work, content of the guides, findings from the research, and connections to other USAID frameworks and approaches. Please send your thoughts and feedback [email protected] with "Collective Action Feedback" in the subject line. We would love to hear from you.

About the authors
Arjun Tasker

Arjun Tasker is the New Partnerships Initiative (NPI) Lead in USAID's Local, Faith, and Transformative Partnerships Hub.