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Collaboration across continents and cultures

In the world of international development, there is a lot of interest in what genuine partnerships look like between NGOs* based in Europe or the US, and NGOs in low or middle income countries. Money, power and history can sometimes make it difficult for genuinely equal partnerships to exist, and all too often the name ‘partnership’ is used to describe a relationship where one side is has a lot more power and voice than the other. Teach A Man To Fish in the UK and Fundación Paraguaya in Paraguay offer an interesting case study.  We are two organisations in different continents working towards the same goal, with a relationship where both organisations genuinely believe the other organisation is its ‘sister organisation’.

The reason for this partly comes from the origin of Teach A Man To Fish which was set up jointly by the founder of Fundación Paraguaya, Martin Burt, and Nik Kafka who had spent time working at Fundación Paraguaya. Nik wanted to make sure the innovative model of education pioneered in Paraguay was shared with others around the world. Another reason for the effective partnership is the shared vision of both organisations to improve education for the least privileged young people through schools setting up school businesses. These school businesses teach business and entrepreneurial skills to young people, and generate income for the school at the same time, ultimately preparing young people for the workplace and improved opportunities in life.

So what does each side bring? Fundación Paraguaya brings the expertise of being the largest micro-finance institution in Paraguay and responding directly to poverty in one of the poorest countries in Latin America. It is a well-established organisation with a history of innovative approaches to social challenges. This includes the first 100% self-sufficient technical vocational school in the world with 16 school businesses that inspires schools around the world. Teach A Man To Fish, on the other hand, brings expertise in forging connections and communication across the world, experience in adapting the model to different contexts and the dynamism and learning agility of a small charity.

As conversations about aid continue to debate how the world moves beyond aid in middle income countries, and what collaboration across continents looks like, our two sister organisations show one example of how it can work. As ‘hermanas’ (‘sisters’ in Spanish), we work every day to combine the best of two different cultures and two different working environments to achieve a shared goal. It’s not always the easiest or the quickest path, but it’s definitely worth it.

* An NGOs is a non-governmental organisation, for example, a charity, non-profit or community group.


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