The UniWASH Project objectives are based on UNICEF's country programme in Uganda, more specifically on addressing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) challenges in schools. The project has been co-managed between UNICEF Finland and UNICEF Uganda. It has been a great learning experience for the two offices, as there is no previous experience of this kind of co-implementation arrangement within UNICEF. All in all, the project idea was bold from the beginning and the lack of examples of good practice has meant that the project management team has had to plan all processes from scratch.
Clarifying roles and responsibilities in a multi-partnership project
In a multi-partnership project, it is important to clarify the different roles and responsibilities of each partner. This should be done jointly and documented well. The roles may evolve over time depending on the course the project takes. Thus the roles and responsibilities should be reviewed annually.
Efforts were made to allow partners themselves to identify the project activities they want to contribute to, and where they consider having the most relevant expertise. The project management emphasised equal participation of all parties, but the three-year experience from phase I showed that equally active partnership with numerous parties involved is not possible nor efficient. The two main implementing parties Makerere University and UNICEF, the latter being the lead in donor relations, were responsible for the results of the project. Therefore, they needed to take the leadership role and follow up the individual contributions of the other partners.
Coordinating a multi-partnership project in two different countries is intense and time consuming. It is a demanding task for the Project Manager as coordination requires continuous organisation of joint meetings as well as bilateral meetings with every partner. Coordination is also a very delicate process because some partners may end up feeling left out if they are not constantly informed of activities taking place. On the other hand, equally active partnership among all participating parties is not realistic because of their differing roles and expertise. Thus, emphasis must be put on each party understanding their specific role in the project implementation. Information sharing is key, and a systematic communication mechanism should be put in place. This, however, is easier said than done when one has multiple tasks and limited time; adequate communication between all parties of the project can be easily neglected. As a consequence, it can have negative impact on people’s motivation to participate.
During phase I, the project coordination was organised on three different levels:
1) Project Management team comprised of Project Manager in Finland, Project Coordinator at Makerere University, and Project Focal Point at UNICEF Uganda. The Project Management team took care of the day-to-day implementation and had monthly follow-up meetings by skype.
2) Project Steering Committee included a representative from all project partner organisations. The function of the Steering Committee was to provide oversight to the project progress and management, as well as project studies and research.
3) Project Board included a senior represenative from all project partner organisations. The function of the Project Board was to take responsibility for the strategic direction and management of the project. The Project Board was responsible for approving and monitoring annual budget, risks, quality and timeliness of the project.
After phase I of the project, the Project Manager took the decision to simplify the coordination levels because the project administration was already quite heavy. Steering group and Board were not continued to phase II but Project Manager reported to UNICEF Finland Management Team and Board on a regular basis of the advancement of the UniWASH project.
Project team in the field visiting a local farmer / UNICEF Finland 2016
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