To Partner or Not to Partner when Implementing Youth Financial Programs

July 30, 2013

Forging the right partnerships between Financial Service Providers (FSPs), Youth Serving Organizations (YSOs), and other key stakeholders, such as schools and local government, can be a key factor to successfully and sustainably serving youth clients.

However, partnerships are not always the answer.

Targeted to FSPs and YSOs, which deliver youth savings programs, this post explores whether or not to partner, as well as the nature of partnerships themselves.

Why Partner?

In general, partnerships can build a project’s local capacity by leveraging core competencies and expertise across different organizations. Strategic partnerships can also help ensure long-term sustainability through broadened outreach and support from key actors in the community and government.

More specifically, FSPs and YSOs may partner for the following reasons:

  • Non-financial services (such as financial education, livelihoods, and entrepreneurship training)
    • Delivery models[1]: Partner with an outside (Linked model) or affiliated (Parallel model) organization to deliver the financial education if an FSP does not have the capacity or expertise to deliver non-financial services itself (Unified model).
    • Delivery channels: Partner with organizations through which non-financial services can be delivered, such as schools, community groups, or technology platforms.
    • Content: Partner with organizations that can develop curricula content and facilitation methodologies and/or train staff.
  • Marketing & Outreach
    • To increase outreach to groups beyond an FSPs’ operational area, capacity, or expertise.
    • To secure support from key influencers and institutions in the community.
    • To implement innovative media and marketing strategies with youth.

What to consider when deciding whether or not to partner

  • Mission – Is there organizational mission alignment?
  • Impact – Do your organizations align on monitoring and evaluation standards?
  • Quality control – Are there mutually agreed upon definitions of quality and capacity to ensure quality?
  • Scale – Is the partner suitable to help reach scale?
  • Funding – Are there diversified funding sources to sustain this partnership and are there any potential conflicts?
  • Expertise – Does this partner have the necessary expertise?
  • Geographic presence – Does your partner’s geographic presence overlap with your catchment areas?

Tips to ensure a good partnership

Based on Women’s World Banking and MEDA’s experience, below are a few tips to ensuring good partnerships, while maintaining and modeling transparency at all levels.

  • Conduct partner due diligence
  • Define roles and responsibilities
  • Ensure consistent communication regarding:
    • Project design
    • Project changes
    • Funding
  • Mutual agreements (MOUs, teaming agreements and contracts) that detail:
    • Engagement – define  level of engagement and expectations for both parties
    • Deliverables – clearly defined and mutually agreed-upon deliverables
    • Targets – deliverables with set timelines
    • Timeline –details of commencement and conclusion of engagement
    • Funding –defined funding relationships

Call to Action

As practitioners, we need to remember that some of the best lessons have emerged from taking chances and being innovative; we must share the good and the bad to learn from each other on what has and has not worked. We ask you to share in forums like this and within your own organization!

What other partnership considerations would you add to this list?

What have been your experiences with partnering with FSPs and YSOs? What have been the lessons learned (both positive and challenging)?

What are your experiences from the unified model? The parallel model? The linked model?

Co-written by Ryan Newton and Nicki Post

Nicki Post is Project Manager/Senior Consultant for MEDA</em rel=”nofollow”>’s Youth and Financial Services</em rel=”nofollow”> team. Ryan Newton is the Senior Associate for Youth Savings at Women’s World Banking. In providing technical assistance on youth savings programs, both MEDA and Women’s World Banking have significant field experience working with YSOs, schools, government, and other key stakeholders to deliver non-financial services in various country contexts.

[1] Christopher Dunford, “Building Better Lives: Sustainable Integration of Microfinance with Education,” Chap.2 inPathways Out of Poverty: Innovations in Microfinance for the Poorest Families (Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press, 2002), 75–131.