Five Tips for Government-To-Government Program Implementation in Education: Lessons from Peru
Over the past several years, USAID has renewed its emphasis on government-to-government (G2G) activities. Yet, lingering questions remain: how can USAID best implement G2G activities? What have we learned? What are key considerations in G2G implementation? The USAID mission in Peru offers its lessons learned from implementing the Amazonia Reads program.
Building on a Strong Partnership
USAID/Peru began working with direct support to the Government of Peru (GOP) in the late 1980s. The mission’s education work had supported GOP education priorities in three interrelated fields for improvement: 1) teacher training and materials; 2) human resources policies and processes; and 3) management policies and processes. Its long-standing relationships, integrated with the mission’s emphasis on use of host-country systems and local capacity development, gave USAID/Peru a strong foundation for G2G activities.
To build on that foundation, USAID launched the Amazonia Reads program. Under Amazonia Reads, USAID sought to increase the percentage of students reading at grade level while building local ownership. G2G was a natural choice to simultaneously meet these objectives. The USAID mission put into place G2G agreements with these regional governments:
- San Martin: $4.4 million (June 2014-December 2017)
- Ucayali: $2.5 million (December 2014-December 2017)
A complementary “Capacity Development and Engagement” cooperative agreement ($5 million, January 2015-July 2018) was also put in place to enable the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH) to provide expert technical assistance to the regional governments of San Martin and Ucayali in order to improve the percentage of children performing at grade level standards in reading.
Complexities in G2G Implementation
G2G design and implementation requires the active collaboration of two governments, which presents systemic complexities. Governments differ in bureaucratic regulations, requirements and hierarchies. In the experience of Peru, these challenges played out in the financial and technical implementation. Key challenges include:
Sequencing Appropriately. Although the overall design of Amazonia Reads looked good on paper, it involved heavy management and intensive coordination. Multiple factors, such as finalizing G2G awards and staff turnover, delayed implementation. These delays resulted in a less-than-ideal sequencing of funds. For example, the technical assistance agreement was awarded after the G2Gs. As a result, it was unable to support a strong launch with each G2G activity.
Reframing Traditional Partnership Roles. After years of developing institutional expertise in reading, UPCH was challenged to reframe its role as a trainer and coach instead of only a technical expert. It took time for USAID to help UPCH make this shift. Over time, UPCH successfully became trainers who helped others acquire technical expertise.
Attending to Staffing Challenges. The GOP, USAID and host-country financial staff all experienced staffing challenges during implementation.
- The GOP often contracted out G2G funding management. This presented two issues: 1) internal resentment from GOP permanent staff; and 2) GOP permanent staff were not developing their capacity for G2G activity management.
- USAID experienced high turnover on the education team caused by mission structural reorganization and impending close-out of the mission’s education portfolio. By the end of three years of implementation, seven different individuals had managed the G2Gs and the agreement with UPCH. Among the seven individuals, there was a range of experience and expertise. Most importantly, the lack of continuity and education programming and/or activity management expertise were the biggest barriers to adequately addressing unique G2G challenges.
- From the onset, host-country financial staff required capacity development support to adequately manage the USAID grant funds. The USAID mission’s Financial Management Office (FMO) invested heavily in training and coaching to help the host-country financial staff understand USAID grant procedures and processes. At times, the training work resulted in delays due to counterpart misunderstandings of fund management and created a parallel system. High turnover also compounded the problem.
Building in Sustainability. Challenges in staffing turnover had ripple effects. With the turnover, there was insufficient follow-through to ensure that the requirements to institutional agreements were incorporated into the G2G implementation letters of work plans. For example, many people who gained technical skills in coaching and education management left the regional office after the G2G ended since they were non-permanent staff. Had plans been clearly developed and established, stronger sustainability outcomes may have been achieved.
Five Tips for G2G Implementation
- Commit to stable USAID management of G2Gs. Take USAID staffing into consideration when deciding to use the G2G mechanism. A lack of long-term, available USAID staff can be detrimental to effective implementation. In addition, establish knowledge management systems to retain and build institutional knowledge.
- Anticipate implementation setbacks up front. Setback and delays in G2G are expected. Use the Scenario Planning approach to anticipate common issues and identify potential solutions from the beginning.
- Establish host-country commitment to quality staff. Staff turnover is very common. Develop backup plans that factor in implementation time needed for on-boarding and training. Also, consider incorporating a conditioned host-country commitment to dedicate permanent and qualified staff for the G2G implementation.
- Encourage institutions to use their own employees as part of agreements. When working with host-country governments, build in the use of their own employees as part of the agreement.
- Coach local partners for capacity development support. The practice of knowledge transfer and sustainable capacity development sustainability requires different skills and behaviors from local partners. Support their capacity to build sustainability and integrate them into key aspects of the G2G activity management.