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Stars Foundation invests in organisations and ideas that transform the lives of disadvantaged children and their communities globally.

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Local taking the lead: Why we use referral partners

Posted by: Camille on 26 Apr 2016
in Blog

January 2016 marked the beginning of a new process of awarding 20 organisations for the With and For Girls Collective. Building on the success of its first year, the Collective will continue to find and fund outstanding grassroots girl-led and girl-centred organisations and recognise them with an Award consisting of flexible funding and capacity building support.

We've just published our list of the referral partners who helped us compile applications for the next stages of the award in 2016. 

Our proactive sourcing approach

The first part of the Award process is finding great grassroots organisations. To achieve this, we are using a proactive sourcing approach. This not only helps us in reaching grassroots organisations that we wouldn’t have heard from before but is also a way for us to ensure an efficient process where only suitable applicants participate.

How do we do it?

  • A large network of referral partners
    Using the extensive lists of contacts available to us through the With and For Girls Collective members, Stars built a network of trusted organisations who then became our referral partners. We started in 2015 with 24 referral partners and have now broadened this pool to 61 partners in 2016. This strategy has allowed us to widen our reach considerably this year with applications received from Jamaica, Benin, Tajikistan and even Samoa.
  • Going local
    A key factor in the work of the Collective is to award organisations that have been established at the grassroots of societies. Aiming for these types of organisations means we are reaching those that otherwise go under the radar of international funders. This year we have partnered with national and regional women’s funds and our previous 2015 Girls Award Winners, to truly reach the local level. We found that these organisations have a better understanding of the country context and have first-hand experience of which organisations should be considered for the Award, in recognition of their work.
  • A streamlined process with quotas and eligibility criteria 
    We put quotas on the number of nominations we would like to receive in each region and income category. By limiting the number of nominations we get, we are prioritising quality over quantity. The assessment team is not overwhelmed by a high number of applications and unsuitable applicants do not waste time applying.  This quota system goes hand in hand with clear communication with our referral partners on what we are looking for.
  • Formalised relationships 
    The referral phase is a critical part of the Award selection process so we treat the role of our referral partners very seriously. We sign a Memorandum of Understanding with each of our referral partners. This document outlines both parties’ commitment to this process. Our referral partners nominate the most suitable organisations and the Collective commits to publicly recognise them on its website and in communications materials. We also inform our referral partners of the progress of their nominees throughout the selection process.

Successes & Challenges

The interest and enthusiasm of the referral partners we work with make for one of the most rewarding elements of this approach. This proactive sourcing methodology is a win-win partnership as most of our referral partners are looking to leverage additional funding for their grantees and nominating them to be considered for a With and For Girls Award is a good way to do so. 

This is also a great networking opportunity for the Collective. We have initiated conversations with many other like-minded organisations and learned a lot from them. Through this process, many opportunities for collaboration were identified - and building partners' capacity was a strong common theme among our partners.

However, it has been challenging to work with a breadth of different organisations, from international funders to national funders or delivery organisations. We had to constantly communicate what we were looking for to ensure that all parties were aware of the criteria. This proved to be very resource intensive.

For around a month, two staff members worked almost full time to contact and liaise with the Collective’s 61 referral partners. Our biggest lesson has been to understand that referral partners might not have all the information at hand to assess an applicant’s eligibility. This is something we try and ensure in next year's process so that an even higher number of nominated organisations meet the eligibility criteria and are aware of their nominations.

So whilst we have learnt from our first year's successes, we are still learning, every day, about possible areas for improvement and real ways to achieve impact. And without a doubt, we will continue to share our findings and highlights of this year's process as it goes on, and look forward to announcing the 2016 winners later on in the year.

Photo: Marcia Chandra