Our interviews with global actors revealed a notable rise in EiE partnerships, driven by a consensus on the need to collaborate in order to reach educational goals in crisis contexts. As well, global organizations have increasingly seen the private sector as an important partner primarily due to private resources, and not without some criticisms relating to the practices and motivations of businesses.
“It’s great to have the resources, capacities and innovation that private sector can bring, on the other hand, it can actually be a bit distracting, a bit gimmicky and not necessarily really contributing to the overall response.”
Respondents agree that coordination remains a challenge for the sector, despite the rise in partnerships. Some interviewees discussed how competition in fact characterizes the sector.
“In an emergency specifically, there’s really not a lot of support in terms of financial support, so there’s this natural competition between agencies. Coordination is trying to help that, but it’s challenging for folks to share information when they have yet to secure funding to operate.”
Although global partnerships widely advocate for participatory practices, it appears that actors from the Global South, recipients of funding, and members of affected communities do not participate to nearly the same degree as those from the Global North, and are sometimes tokenized in partnership spaces. This limited participation reflects ongoing and deeply entrenched power hierarchies in EiE global partnerships.
“The power dynamics in humanitarian response are fraught with problems.”
In global documents community or “local” stakeholders were rarely referenced as equal partners in the same manner as UN agencies, INGOs, governments, and private actors. Rather, local actors were commonly referred to as a group to be engaged, consulted, or empowered, with partnership activities requiring their “buy in.” And yet organizations with global scope generally advocated a localization agenda in their published documents, whereby community participation was associated with programmatic success.
Our study revealed some significant changes in global EiE partnerships over the course of our study. COVID-19 spurred a new narrative within many global organizations on the need to “build back better,” although some actors took this as merely rhetoric.
“I see this as an opportunity for sure, because from my perspective, COVID has just laid bare tremendous inequalities within education that we knew existed, but now they’re right in your face. So it gives us an opportunity to say, hey, we can’t turn a blind eye to this anymore.”
The pandemic also may have accelerated localization efforts in EiE due to the lack of travel and absence of international actors within crisis-affected countries.
“This pandemic has emphasized the organic resilience that exists within communities and reminded us that we as international NGO workers, we have a limited view into what will work in a given context.”
The Black Lives Matter movement appears to have brought about a global reckoning on racism, including within the education and development and humanitarian sectors, although to a greater degree in the US-based organizations than elsewhere.
“There’s been a big internal reckoning, and a cry from people of color within the organization and the allies to take anti-Black racism seriously.”