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Frequently asked questions about Strategic Partner

Who can become a strategic partner? 

The target group for this form of partnership is large civil society organisations (Norwegian and international) with a certain volume, and systems, capacity and competence in areas that are strategically important for Norwegian development policy. See here for the criteria for the strategic partner scheme: (Strategic Partner Rules)

Although an organisation may fulfil the minimum requirements, this does not imply an automatic approval as a strategic partner. An evaluation is done of the degree of fuilfilment of the requirements beyond the required minimum level, as well as the strategic relevance with regards to the priorities of Norwegian development policy. 

How to obtain strategic partner approval

Organisations must apply to be considered for strategic partner approval. Applicants must document that they are above the threshold value and will be evaluated according to a set of known terms. Decision of strategic partner approval will be made in the form of a single resolution, with a right of appeal. See the announcement of the strategic partner model here

What does it mean to be a strategic partner?

Strategic partners do not have an automatic right to grants and must apply for calls for proposals. However, they are granted the right to:

  • submit simplified applications for thematic areas in which they have been previously assessed,
  • follow up and reporting at an overarching level,
  • greater financial flexibility and opportunity to adapt to context.

This is based on them having been assessed and deemed to have systems, competence and capacity that warrant a less detailed follow-up and management.

What are the consequences of introducing a Strategic Partner scheme for organisations applying to Norad for grants in 2023? 

Strategic Partner will be announced in June 2023 and applications may be submitted from 1 August 2023. Strategic partner assessments will be conducted on an ongoing basis. All organisations applying for grants will have to plan for a full application process in connection with calls for proposals in 2023. 

What part of a federation can apply to become a strategic partner? 

If there is a Norwegian branch, the Norwegian branch must apply for strategic partner status. For international federations without a Norwegian branch, the international head office can apply for strategic partner status.  

When the Norwegian branch is assessed for strategic partner approval, relevant guidelines and policies etc. that are common for the entire federation/parent organisation will be part of the assessment.  

What does it mean for a strategic partner to be pre-approved for a thematic area? 

A condition for being considered a strategically important partner is that the organisation has good competence and capacity in one or more thematic areas that are strategically important for Norwegian development policy goals. Strategic partner approval entails that strategic partners can submit simplified applications for calls for proposals within the thematic area(s) that they have been assessed and approved for. For example, if a strategic partner is approved for the thematic area of education, it can submit a simplified application for calls for proposals in which education is the thematic area. If the same strategic partner applies for a call for proposal which pertains to something completely different, for example marine litter, the strategic partner will have to submit a full application in the same manner as all other applicants. 

Can strategic partners only apply for grants in thematic areas for which they have been pre-approved? 

No, everyone can apply for the calls for proposals issued by Norad at any time. However, the right to submit a simplified application will only apply when the strategic partner’s thematic competence has been pre-approved through the strategic partner assessment. 

Will it be possible to include humanitarian competence in the assessment now that Norad will take over the responsibility for humanitarian efforts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

Yes, documented humanitarian competence and capacity can be part of the assessment. If an assessment of humanitarian competence and capacity is desirable, the applicant should make it clear in the application and/or in the guidance meeting.

When strategic partners and other organisations compete in the same call for proposals, will status as strategic partner or quality of the proposals weigh the most?

Norad practices equal treatment in calls for proposals and quality of the proposals will be the determining factor in the decisions on grants. Strategic partners do not receive a right to grants, only the right to a simplified application process.

Can a strategic partner lose strategic partner status? 

Yes, if there are changes of material importance to the strategic partner approval, Norad may revoke the strategic partner approval. Changes of material importance may, for example, relate to the handling of matters involving whistleblowing or financial irregularities, that the organisation no longer has the competence or policy that formed part of the strategic partner assessment, or that the organisation no longer meets the threshold value.  

What does the application process look like?

See this flowchart for an illustration of the process.

Is there any specific template to submit the application to the scheme?

If not, are organisations meant to simply answer the eight questions outlined in the assessment criteria? Is there any word limit to answering these? What is the time frame for providing documentation of the criteria?

Should the initial application say anything about thematic areas that are relevant?

The application process is in two phases.

  • The first step requires no template/form. The applicant first needs to document that the organization is above the threshold value and provide a brief (max. 200 words) description of why it considers itself a strategic partner to Norad. Relevant thematic areas for Norwegian development policy may be mentioned in this text. For reference, those are found here: Reports, plans and strategies - regjeringen.no (under Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Climate and Environment). Norad’s thematic portfolios are founded on these priorities: Norad’s Thematic Portfolios.
  • Thereafter, in the second step Norad will introduce an application form to the applicant in a meeting. The purpose of this meeting will be to guide the applicant on what kind of documentation available may be appropriate for assessing each criteria.

The main documentation needed will be existing documents (strategies, policies, annual reports, guidelines etc) as well as reviews/evaluations conducted by other donors or as part of certification processes (e.g. ECHO). In some cases, short descriptions of competence, procedures or routines may be explicitly asked for in the application form. These should be kept to a maximum of 200 words.

Once the submitted documentation has been reviewed by Norad, it will be followed up with spot checks and further clarification questions where needed.

The time frame for this application process depends on several factors.

  • Firstly, organisations that have concrete plans to apply for calls for proposals with Norad the same year, will be prioritized first.
  • Secondly, Norad will not ask for documentation that it already possesses as part of an ongoing cooperation, hence the application form will in some cases be partly filled out by existing documents before the applicant is asked to provide further information.
  • The existence of underlying documentation from international certification assessments etc (E.g. ECHO), might also make the process go faster.

Budget flexibility for strategic partners

Can the 20% budget line for flexible funding or the opportunity to reallocate funds between budget lines be used for institutional strengthening purposes, such as institutional strengthening of M&E or mainstreaming activities?

Although the financial flexibility and opportunity for adaptive programming increases with the strategic partnership model, the funding is still meant to support programme implementation rather than institutional strengthening. It is not core support. General systems strengthening should be financed over the indirect costs budget line. Activities such as M&E and mainstreaming for a specific programme may be part of operational costs in a programme.

Can the flexible budget line be used for innovation and testing new ways of doing things?

Yes, the flexible budget line aims to contribute to innovation and strategic partners will be expected to report on and share experiences from this.

Published 02.07.2023
Last updated 15.08.2023