It takes about six to twelve months to plan a wedding. Maybe if you are extremely busy and want to seek a sought-after venue, then you could be pushing closer to 18 months or even two years. 

How long do you think it takes to finalise a partnership with an international NGO? Similar timeframe? Well, at this rate I think I would have saved a mint on the wedding dress because at five years into discussions, my early bargain of a wedding dress would have been a steal (but I’m not sure it would still fit me!)

For five years we (READ for Life) have been in discussions with one organisation about becoming a potential partner. This large organisation specialises in education; they work with hundreds (possibly thousands) of schools in Uganda, however they have openly said they don’t personally have the technical expertise to help the teachers and children… enter READ for Life. 

We have had meetings/inspections (that felt potentially worse than OFSTED for all my UK readers). And meetings. And meetings. Presented countless documents and policies. Revised policies. We have repeated the same process again when staff have left their organisation and been replaced by new staff. And again when those new ones left and were replaced also. 

In the latest of an ongoing paperwork chain, I was sent a READ for Life partnership assessment report in draft form. The sender recognised it may be outdated since it was completed by a former staff member who has since left and time has yet again slipped by. Basically this 9-page report discusses how our organisation works and potential risks or dangers of partnering with us. 

There are a few potential risks or dangers of partnering with READ for Life to train teachers in primary schools which I really must share (and if you thought red-tape hadn’t reached Uganda, then you were wrong):

  1. “Modern Slavery and Child Safeguarding are not incorporated into the supply chain function.” – this basically means that the store where we buy photocopying paper and pens from doesn’t have an Anti-Trafficking or Child Protection Policy. Do you know any stationery shops that have these policies in place? 
  2. “Organisational assets are not engraved or tagged” – if I’m going to ask an organisation to train teachers and help to lift the standard of reading in primary schools, I’m certainly going to be inspecting their staff desks to check if READ for Life is engraved on those tables. That’s going to have an incredible impact on our work with teachers! And of course writing on the tables will prevent theft – no one would ever steal an item with someone’s name written on it. 
  3. And finally, we don’t have a ‘Procurement Department’. For an organisation which hires 8 staff members and their main commodity is their knowledge and skills (human resources), we were still expected to have a whole department dedicated to procurement. 

I made my comments to the document in track changes (as respectfully as I could for a potential partner). And during a follow-up phone conversation, I bantered with the country education manager and asked should I expect to receive the MOU in November this year for our partnership. He laughed and said hopefully in March. 

And ironically, the discussions of partnership were for a very specific 5-year-program and those 5-years are almost over… 


One response »

  1. Diane Parsons says:

    Why am I not surprised !! I think it’s a line from Aladdin!
    Your persistence is admirable and deserves to be rewarded with a partnership that acknowledges the worth of your organisation. Xx

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