Habitat for Humanity Egypt: partnerships for scale -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Habitat for Humanity Egypt: partnerships for scale

By Nesreen Wagih Sobhy

Innovation is the hallmark of Habitat for Humanity Egypt (HFHE). Its original style highlights the importance of an indigenous, grassroots approach to development. Instead of utilizing the traditional role of affiliates, HFHE builds thoughtful partnerships with community-based organizations (CBOs). Under this model, HFHE acts largely as a support system, providing its partner organizations with loans, training in housing program implementation, and technical support such as monitoring and evaluation. In this way, while the projects are community-based efforts, the housing committees are not totally absolved of their accountability to HFHE, nor HFHE of its responsibility to the community.

The partnerships are mutually advantageous. HFHE benefits from decreased administration costs, allowing it to use its funds to reach more people. In addition to helping HFHE’s reach grow, the collaborations build the capacity of the partner organizations. HFHE does not intend any one partnership to be permanent. Instead, it hopes that participating organizations will gain enough experience to be able to raise funds for and operate their own housing programs independent of HFHE. This would not diminish HFHE’s impact, as it would just continue to forge new partnerships.

So far, HFHE’s partnership model has proven successful. From 1997, HFHE has grown from having one to 10 partnerships, and from working in one to 23 communities. The repayment rate consistently hovers around 95 percent, and HFHE will soon dedicate its 10,000th house. Thoughtful partnerships are the core of its inspirational progress.

In El-Kom El-Akhdar, a village of about 12,000 people, HFHE collaborates with the El-Kom El-Akhdar Community Development Association. In light of each organization’s mission and work, the partnership seemed natural. HFHE’s goal is to eliminate poverty housing, while the CBO aims to eliminate poverty. The CBO, experienced in implementing a wide range of development projects including microfinance, hoped the collaboration would help bring affordable housing and a general improvement of quality of life to the struggling farm community. Technical skills were not the only requirement, though. Equally essential was the fact that the CBO was well-established and well-reputed within the community.

Despite the organizations’ parallel aims, the partnership was not effortless. HFHE’s model of loan repayment and the concept of a revolving fund did not resonate well with the CBO. The CBO was accustomed to receiving grants to implement projects, not loans. Ultimately, the two organizations formed an official, successful partnership in 2003. By December 2007, 872 houses were built. Health, education and economic development also improved. Housing conditions are better ventilated and more sanitary, and a local building industry has started to take shape.

HFHE aims to move 2 million people out of poverty housing by 2023. The goal is ambitious, but through HFHE’s partnership strategy it seems HFHE is on its way toward reaching it.

Nesreen Wagih Sobhy has been with HFH Egypt since June 2007 as resource development and communications coordinator. Prior to this, Nesreen worked for six years in the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services as an international relations coordinator.

Nesreen may be contacted at rdc1@habitategypt.org.

Points to consider in developing and maintaining successful partnerships

  • Habitat Egypt has a set of clearly identified criteria upon which partners are selected.
  • The CBO is registered with the Ministry of Social Solidarity and has a legal entity.
  • The CBO has a separate, permanent place for running its activities.
  • The CBO is experienced at managing developmental projects, running construction projects and managing small revolving loan programs with evidence of strong repayment rates.
  • The CBO works in a specified geographical area, with a poor community with demonstrated need for developmental work.
  • The CBO provides a number of developmental services or programs to communities and operates under a clearly defined and sufficient administrative structure.
  • The CBO accepts Habitat parameters and regulations, especially as defined in partnership agreements, and is willing to undergo periodic evaluation.

In addition,

  • Investigate the partner’s reputation before entering into a partnership.
  • Conduct periodic evaluations.
  • Scale up gradually, and ensure continuous follow-up and communications.