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Building and managing consortia to respond to shifting development needs

Frameworks, Consortium

Framework agreements, and their use as procurement mechanisms, have been part of international development for a long time — but conversations about their role and effectiveness have recently come to the fore. On the one hand, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have greater opportunities to offer their perspective and skills; on the other hand, some SMEs feel that they are being squeezed out of the market or — when included in consortia — do not have full potential to use their skills and expertise once a bid has been won. How can consortia be managed in such a way that development needs are fairly and expertly met, and what role do framework agreements play in this?

Analysing the lessons learnt from DFID’s Wealth Creation Framework and Global Evaluation Framework Agreement (GEFA), coupled with our first-hand experience working on frameworks agreements, has allowed OPM’s Frameworks Team to review and redefine our approaches when building consortia ensuring a ‘best practice philosophy’ to our donors, clients, and partners. There are several principles that our experience has shown are important when building a consortium and managing a framework agreement, not just for the benefit of those working within the framework, but ultimately — through greater efficiency, transparency, and expertise — for the people who will benefit from the work delivered under those frameworks.

  • Partnership at the core

Consortia are defined by their focus on partnership, and it is vital that any frameworks are based on shared principles — including shared objectives, communication, transparency, shared learning, and mutual accountability. Avoiding unnecessary and costly internal competition between consortium partners helps foster beneficial, efficient development, while all consortium partners should have the opportunity to express their interest in participating in call-downs.

  • A focus on expertise

Simply put, the leaders of projects should be those that are best for the job. Those with the required expertise should be identified as the best positioned to lead, and others can collaborate through additional management support, bringing in additional specialisms based on need. This ensures that the team can also use that expertise to best effect, offering both value for money and the ability to deliver high-quality projects that bring about positive change.

  • Transparency and quality assurance

Transparent decision making and thorough quality assurance helps ensure that a consortium is delivering first-class, relevant services. We recommend this includes regular reviews of consortium arrangements, while open knowledge sharing between partners and consortia helps ensure sustainable, far-reaching impact.

  • Flexibility

Framework agreements need to be managed effectively, but we advocate a balance between formal rules and flexibility. Each context is different, and shifting development needs can be met with a versatile approach to management. We also recommend that consortium participation is voluntary and non-exclusive.

From the outset, in building new consortia for framework agreements, it is crucial to develop a common understanding of the framework culture, values, and approach, and a set of sound and efficient management systems and procedures, shared between all consortium partners. 
 
We believe this flexible and adaptable approach allows consortia to work in a transparent and mutually accountable manner, ensuring that consortium partners have access to and sight of all projects that are procured through the framework, so that no one is locked out of potential procurements. In turn, we believe this offers donors and clients the best possible opportunities, providing value for money and responding to their requirements in a rigorous and high-quality manner.

If you would like to discuss our work on frameworks, please email frameworks@opml.co.uk.