Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
As an MRG partner, what to expect from us and what we expect from you
Congratulations and welcome to the MRG family of partners! This page is designed to help you know what to expect when you work in partnership with us.
As you will have learnt, MRG normally co-designs substantive projects with our partners, which means that you should be as active as possible, thinking things through and speaking up about ideas or concerns when a project is being designed. Don’t assume MRG knows best: no one knows and understands your community and its needs better than you! The best time to change a programme design is right at the beginning of the process, once a donor has agreed to fund it, change is still possible but much harder. It is hard to find staff time to devote to working on a project that isn’t funded, but inputting at the early stages is so much more effective, we all need to find creative ways to do that.
Some organizations sometimes ask us to sign a pre-teaming agreement and we are happy to do that. The last thing we want to do is to steal the ideas of people we want to work with! But we don’t expect our partners to routinely sign such agreements and we don’t have a template that we use. If this is important to you, you can tell us why and we can use a text you have used before or agree the text between us.
During the design process, you should discuss with your MRG contact person, how any management and administration percentage will be split between organizations, how your essential staffing, office and governance costs can be met and whether there might be any expectation on you to contribute towards any match funding that the donor we are applying to might require. On covering your administrative costs, we have prepared some information available here and if you want to learn more about MRG’s approach to match funding you can find more information here. But the rules vary according to the donor so these are general guidelines and if your MRG contact gives you different advice you will need to follow that.
At some point in the early stages of our working together (sometimes at the design stage, sometimes when funding is confirmed and for all but the smallest grants), we will ask you to complete a Partnership Agreement and Partner Assessment Template (PAT). The partnership agreement is a general document that describes how we will work together but it doesn’t concern delivering any specific project work or contractual obligations. It covers our mutual expectations of those we work with to treat each and every person equally and with respect and to act professionally and responsibly. If we receive a complaint from a member of your staff, from a trainee or from another partner organization, that you have acted in ways that don’t live up to Human Rights norms or our standards, we will initiate a discussion with you and will expect your organization to take appropriate and prompt action against any individual or individuals involved who are found to have behaved inappropriately.
You will also need to complete a PAT which we use to identify the strong and less developed elements of your organizational set up. This allows us to ensure that we don’t overwhelm you with demanding new projects or give you too much extra responsibility and tasks you need to learn about too early on. But it also allows us to see where there might be opportunities for us to learn from you or for you to learn from us and our network of partners. There are several sheets within the PAT excel document and you will either complete the grants < £5k or grants >£5k sheet depending on the project work you are co-designing with us. You also need to complete the information sheet. (In some cases, for larger grants we may visit you to understand your organization better (capacity assessment visit) in which case we may fill out or at least discuss the PAT together during this visit.)
Once funding is confirmed, we will ask you to sign a contract. This will set out the activities you will complete, the activities or non financial support that MRG will provide, the results we hope to achieve as well as any financial support we will provide and the budget for how it will be spent. We need to vary the exact terms of the contract depending on the size of the grant as well as the expectations or requirements of the donor but to get a general idea, you can see one sample contract for grants under £5k here, one sample contract for a larger grant to an organization with a turnover under £60k a year here, and one sample contract for a grant over £60k here.
The contract will explain when you need to report to us. You will need to submit both narrative and financial reports. There will normally be a kick off meeting, especially for larger grants and for new partners, where we will talk through some ‘dos and don’ts’ and you will be able to ask questions and clarify anything that you don’t understand. If we don’t have that meeting, (or if we do but a query arises later and you are unsure about anything), please do reach out to your MRG staff contact and ask. It is much better to clarify things at the outset than to get to the end of your activities and to find that you have not recorded everything you need to report to us about. As with the contracts, our reporting formats do vary according to the size and type of project and what donors need but a fairly standard example is here (financial) and here (narrative).
MRG will almost always want to review and approve both narrative and financial reports on one phase of work before we send the next tranche of funding. But, at the same time, we know some organizations won’t have cash in the bank to continue working (also bearing in mind that sometimes banks can take a while to move the money). If this is going to hold up the work or make things very difficult for you, let us know and we will see what we can do to find a compromise solution that works best for both of us.
We love it when you send us photos of your work and sometimes we can use them in our media or social media work or on the website, but to do this, we need the people in the photo to give their signed permission. We won’t normally use photos of children so try not to take photos where individual children can be recognised.
You should not use MRG’s logo on the front cover of a report, film, website or other output unless we have had an opportunity to check and approve the content. MRG is often happy to co-publish with our partners and we know that our reputation for authoritative and quality controlled content can help gain an audience but we first need to be sure that we know what is being said. When our logo is used on a front cover, we would normally have been involved in the data collection and will need to be sure that we are comfortable with and confident about methods and contents. However, as part of transparency, you may, if you wish, (but you are not obliged to) include MRG’s logo inside any report that we have financially supported with a disclaimer that we contributed funding for it but are not responsible for the contents. Please discuss this with your MRG contact person well before the deadline for the publication to go to print to agree the wording, placement etc.
MRG will ask you to subscribe to our newsletter. This is because opportunities for partners to carry out advocacy, submit evidence, attend training or apply for funding are regularly included. And it is an efficient way for us to contact you. The newsletter is currently only available in English, but we hope that you will use google translate to access the contents regardless, many of the links will take you to materials produced in other languages. It is also great – if it is safe for you to do so – if you can follow MRG on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Consider whether it is appropriate and useful to tag us when you are posting on your channels and we will share your content with a wider audience if we can.
MRG promises to do its utmost to keep your data confidential and safe and we will ask you to do likewise (e.g. if you attend a training event organized by us, we will ask you to understand that other participants may be facing a very severe security situation, similarly at times our staff may be at risk and we ask that you to your utmost to keep data about their interactions with you password protected or on secure channels). There are many organizations who support NGOs who may come under threat and you can find a list of resources here. You have the right to ask us to share with you the data that we hold about your organization, and we will always do so (after taking some time to collect and check it.) If you want to do this, you can write to your MRG contact person or use the complaint button if you prefer.
We really hope that all your security precautions will be effective and you will never face threats or reprisals as a result of your work with us. But if this does happen, and if it is safe to do so, please reach out to us and we will see what, if anything, we can do to help. We know that our partners take risks to try to advance the cause of equality and human rights and if you face difficulties as a result, we will do what is within our power to mitigate any effects.
When our funded joint work comes to an end, that does not need to be the end of our relationship. Firstly, we sometimes design a future phase of work and if/when we are successful in getting funding for that, our joint work will restart. We would like to be able to offer some continuity between funded work, in the form of continued strategy sharing, joint advocacy and mutual support without any direct grant support. This might depend on the staff time available to us. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t. It might depend on the emergencies happening around the world and the calls for our help we are receiving as a result.
Sometimes though, we feel that we need to work less with one partner or community and so we don’t design a ‘next phase’ of our joint work or seek funding for it. This might be because a particular problem has been successfully resolved within a community. But at other times it might be because, in our judgement, your organization now has the capacity to ‘go it alone’ with much less or no support from us. We only really ever finally succeed when organizations we have supported can sustain the effort and continue moving their context towards equality without our support. Even in these cases we will want to stay in touch with you. We will aim to tell you about opportunities that could benefit you and involve you in global and collective efforts e.g. to influence UN wide processes.
If you ever have a concern or a complaint about the way anyone associated with MRG has treated you, please contact us. Any feedback will be independently and as far as possible confidentially investigated. We want to hear from you if you are unhappy about anything in our relationship. We can’t always solve every problem, (sometimes we are constrained by donor rules) but we will investigate and learn for the future and try to do better for both you and others.
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