Having worked both in the field and at headquarters, I know the challenges and wishes of both. It is very difficult for international development organisations to find the right balance between sufficient headquarters control and a strong local presence in the beneficiary countries. Let’s look at the advantages and challenges on each side and analyse the options.
This blog entry deals with centralisation – i.e., the role of Headquarters.
A well-functioning Headquarters provides:
In the ideal situation, Headquarters also provides field offices with synergies with other countries, programmes and projects, inputs obtained from other useful experiences, innovations and new concepts for development cooperation, and a useful reality check concerning local events, conditions, staffing issues, project problems and developments.
To sum up, the ideal role of Headquarters is to guide and support and provide a broader and deeper picture. And when this occurs, there is a true value added.
All too often a second face of Headquarters intervention is seen at the field level:
This latter list relates not to the role but to the way it is applied. Many of these problems can be clarified by agreeing on the division or responsibility. Then very clear processes for the interaction between Headquarters and the field need to be established and systematically applied. This exercise implies a give and take and genuine distribution of power, but it is worthwhile carrying out, as it resolves much conflict potential and provides incentives for good performance, at both field and central levels.
We need to strike the right balance between: – the positive and control roles of Headquarters – and the individual freedom/responsibility of a field office and its obligations.
The next entry will consider the decentralisation aspect – the role of the field office. Check in again in a couple of days!!