Steering committees: from chairperson to partner

By Luis Costa and Julien Sémelin, MAVA Mediterranean Programme

Our world is changing fast, and so are the threats affecting natural resources and biodiversity. In order to deal with this challenge, we have developed 25 action plans to manage our funding up to 2022. These action plans are however not set in stone and we must remain adaptive and flexible.

This is why we have created steering committees for each action plan, made up of partners who implement the projects that we fund. Each committee meeting is a forum for discussion and information exchange. The partners can thus assess the results reached and devise joint strategies.  This increases their efficiency and sustainability, whilst allowing them to remain mindful of any changes in context.

After one year of operation, these committees have met several times and we can already learn a few lessons from their meetings.

They are essential elements of adaptive management

With a view to the phasing out of our funding by 2022, we attach particular importance to achieving tangible results, and the projects we support require maximum coordination. During these committee meetings, the partners are invited to assess the progress made by their organisations, as well as the collective impact of their actions. The adaptive management process is sometimes complex, and needs time and support in order to be fully embraced by our partners. Moreover, the committees have adopted a central position in the process, and we must ensure an external perspective is included in discussions so as to avoid the well-known “judge and jury” situation.

A sustainable tool with long-term perspectives

In addition to meeting our adaptive management needs, these committees are in the process of building solid partnerships to achieve common goals. The very fact that this community of partners is strengthened by working together is in itself already a great victory. In some cases, it is no longer just a matter of project monitoring committees, but of actual communities of partners who share the same philosophy.

However, we have to be realistic, all 25 communities will not last after our Foundation’s funding is phased out. Some committees were set up based on existing collaborations, whilst others were created especially for our action plans.  Although building on existing work is a sustainability criterion, it is not a hard-and-fast rule. Indeed, some of these coalitions will have to reinvent themselves in order to deal with the end of our funding. On the other hand, it looks like some of the “new” communities have a very promising future.

So, how can we ensure the long-term continuation of these collaborations, and make sure they continue after the MAVA projects end? We have already pinpointed a few essential components as we have been moving forward:  the need to share a long-term vision, the ownership of challenges, and healthy, solid coordination.

A change of positioning for our Foundation

These steering committees also reveal several significant changes that are currently underway at MAVA. Although we played a leading role in implementing these changes, we are now gradually moving away from this role and adopting a position similar to that of our partners.

Indeed, we will be counting on these committees for assessing the results obtained during this initial project cycle, and thus create the final cycle 2020-2022. This final cycle will be different.  Our partners will have taken control and will count on MAVA as a crew member ready to help and support them. We must gradually become less of a “chairperson” and more of a “partner”, in order to work together to find solutions to the challenges posed by these action plans.

After only one year, this change can already be felt in some committees. Just like the outside world, our partners are moving quickly, which is rather reassuring.

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