SPARK works daily to protect, respect and fulfil basic economic, social and cultural rights in FCAS through employment creation and vocational education. Nevertheless, there is no room for complacency in the development sector, and it is necessary to strive for further improvement in human rights standards through the organisation’s programmes in FCAS. Working in fragile environments, the adherence to social and environmental norms is of the utmost importance. As a result, SPARK implemented a CSR policy in 2013 in order to ensure that its projects do not cause any harm and that all financial contributions do not support activities that might obstruct positive and peaceful development. SPARK’s projects target women, youth and marginalised groups to contribute to increased equality and inclusion.
Maintaining high standards of ethical conduct requires the active commitment of all SPARK-related parties – i.e., employees in the head office and in the regions, consultants, volunteers, interns, supported entrepreneurs and students, donors and partner organisations. To safeguard the CSR issues, SPARK has been maintaining and developing documents such as the Staff CoC. Among other issues, the CoC contains clauses referring to prohibition of harassment, discrimination and corruption as well as awareness for environmental protection. It also safeguards the autonomy of local partners and allocates prime decision-making power to them to avoid the dominance of SPARK in their projects.
Moreover, prior to engaging with programmes in any new project location, SPARK implements a context analysis that reflects especially on how activities can be conducted without doing harm. This context analysis is constantly updated.
SPARK success depends to a great extent on close collaboration with its network of partners, which includes trainers, experts and local development organisations. Through these strong coalitions at local and regional levels, SPARK and its partners reach synergy of ideas and programmes. SPARK values these partnerships for the learning opportunities and the sharing of knowledge, skills and experience that come from them.
The character of each respective partnership depends on the project: at times, local partners receive funding from SPARK; in other cases, they receive funding directly from donors and subcontract SPARK. Additionally, the character of the partners varies; they range from local NGOs specialised in entrepreneurship or education reforms and educational institutions to microfinance organisations, banks, business intermediaries, government bodies and business alliances. SPARK facilitates cooperation between these organisations and encourages the financial independence and capacity-building of its partners.
In congruence with ISO norms, SPARK has developed a Partnership Procedure, which clearly sets out the screening process for prospective local partners. The BoD, the responsible project manager and the head of finance carefully scrutinise the potential partner, which has to share SPARK’s mission. The Partnership Procedure also includes a Sanction Policy, which mainly functions as a financial monitoring tool, but also strengthens commitment to the mission.
Building local capacity is often one of the starting points for SPARK’s work. SPARK collaborates with a range of actors to offer trainings to its partner organisations. This includes the strengthening of their organisational structures, coaching, trainings of trainers and curriculum development as well as support in lobbying and advocacy. SPARK’s capacity-building efforts rest on three pillars:
SPARK field office staff and project managers are responsible for partner capacity building. During an official evaluation visit, the respective project manager, together with local field office staff, annually evaluates each partnership.