Know thyself, know thy partner

There are many motivations for u.s. and international organizations to engage in international health activities. an invitation from a true partner who is part of the local community and its health system, knowledge and understanding of our respective motives and full transparency regarding our goals are all necessary if we are to do our best work.

How did the project come to be?

  • No project should be conducted without an invitation — even in times of emergency.

Was the invitation from a partner who is part of the local community?

  • The person issuing the invitation should be a local partner who is a part of the community. This reflects the U.S. Catholic health care experience in which the foundresses and founders came at an invitation, and came to stay permanently in service to that community.
  • Even in times of emergency, it is essential that we not assume permission to operate locally.

Is the partner who made the invitation part of the local health system?

  • While the local pastor may be enthusiastic about the project, local health providers must also be involved from the beginning.

Are the multiple motivations of the local partner known?

  • Just as U.S. partners have multiple motivations, so too might the local partner. The local partner may want not only the health services provided but could also be looking at the economic benefits such as the purchases from local vendors and the hiring of local staff.
  • Talking through the projected outcomes of any project can surface motivations and create a more transparent and trusting relationship.

Has a local needs assessment been conducted and were local partners involved?

  • Sometimes the first time organizational staff are actually overseas in the local partner's community is when they arrive to run a clinic or donate supplies. This could indicate that an assessment of local abilities was not conducted and might negate the building of relationships of trust.

Has a local asset assessment been conducted and were local partners involved?

  • Locally trained health workers or locally sourced equipment and supplies could be overlooked if only the needs of the community are assessed. Assets/human resources can only become known if sought out and surfaced.

Has a contract or MOU been signed?

  • The same due diligence and business acumen applied to U.S. partnerships should be a part of any international health project.
  • Understanding who is responsible for what in any interaction is important. In the case of international health projects, lines of accountability for any services provided, needed follow-ups and liability issues that arise must be clear.

For current projects, is it time for a new assessment?

  • Assessments should be done regularly. If a ministry has been working in or donating to a community for several years, new assessments should be conducted with the hope that progress has been made. If the needs of the community haven't changed nor the local assets/capacity increased in the years of a program, the project should be re-evaluated to surface gaps and root causes.