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Maintain some flexibility in the execution of the partnership


Maintain some flexibility in the execution of the partnership

Maintain some flexibility in the execution of the partnership

Posted on August 22, 2019 by Karina de Souza

Authoring Organizations: Pacific Institute
Consulting Organizations: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Universal: No
Applicable Phases: Scale & Exit
Last Updated May 22, 2024


Partnerships and projects grow or change over time, often becoming more complex than the original partners anticipated. Therefore partners should maintain flexibility for the project to change or expand during the execution of the partnership. Governance agreements should allow for this growth and transition by including opportunities for scaling up and exiting the partnership. Partners must recognise that the partnership is more than the sum of its parts.


Flexible roles and expectations allow the project to best adapt to changing contexts and stakeholder expectations. This flexibility becomes crucial if the project plan of action is forced to shift away from the original planned activities. A project can still achieve its goals despite changing political or social circumstances if project partners respond flexibly and work to create alternative implementation strategies.


Water security can be complex to achieve. Any number of social, economic, political, technical or institutional shifts could alter the viability of your project intervention. Partners must be adaptable, possibly needing to shift the project activities  to accommodate  changes.

Consider the following in the design of your project:

  • Ensure that your funding is flexible should a political or economic shift prevent the implementation of the original project. For example, can the funding apply to more than one task, activity, or partner?
  • If the execution of the partnership project must shift, consider using external short-term help or consultancy to cover any gaps in activity implementation. When you encounter barriers or changes in direction, remember the original vision of the partnership and try to develop alternative projects or activities that could contribute to the overall desirable outcome or vision. Even if it was not originally considered a priority for the partnership, this new project or activity  may now better fit your original design.


To reduce water losses in Metsimaholo Local Municipality, South Africa, the original project sought to work directly with communities to reduce their water leakages as well as to conduct education and awareness campaigns. However, project partners could not  meet directly with communities and the project was forced to focus on schools instead. The ultimate goals of reducing non-revenue water through raising awareness remained the same, and the project achieved its ultimate vision of increasing water security through both technical and social interventions (e.g. awareness raising). The flexibility in the method of execution  meant that the community still benefited from non-revenue water reductions and increased water security. Although the methods of implementation shifted, the outcome was successful.

Projects that have validated this Lesson

This partnership seeks to reduce water losses in Metsimaholo Local Municipality (LM), situated in the International Vaal/Orange-Senqu catchment. Actions include a baseline assessment to determine current losses, community outreach measures and leakage repair on bulk and household infrastructure. Project partners … Learn More

This lesson learned reflects the beliefs and experiences of the author, not necessarily the Pacific Institute, CEO Water Mandate, or UN Global Compact.