Resources: Best Practices for Communicating with Int'l Partners


A roundtable forum was held on April 28, 2009 to have a conversation about best practices for communicating with international partners. Many great tips and tools were shared - and this is my attempt to document and share this information.

Internet Resources

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Building Rapport

  • It is important to acknowledge that the work is difficult.
  • Get people excited about the project!
  • It is important to approach a project with compassion and patience, and avoid an attitude of 'I have to get this done.' Understand that people are already overworked, and take the time to build relationships.
  • Be flexible. Let go of strict expectations.
  • Find a 'local champanion' that can help you avoid awkward communications because of cultural norms. This can also help you to better understand what is really going on 'on the ground.'
  • Don't just rely on email - use the phone, too! This is a more personal way to talk to someone.
  • Even these partners in person!
  • Can't fly across the world to see them in person? Use video conferencing. A nice way to see each others' faces without paying for an airplane ticket. Just another way to get to know each other better to build rapport.
  • Use a contact database to keep track of details - names of children, etc.
  • To get truthful information (the good news and the bad), avoid suggesting things, sharing your thoughts, etc. Don't put words in their mouth. Avoid passing any judgement.

Defining expectations

  • Work collaboratively to define realistic expectations. For example, 'what is a realistic amount of time one should expect to receive an email reply?'
  • Agree on reasonable expectations for both parties - and put it in writing! Make sure this is done in the very begining. This document will help to hold both parties accountable.
  • Keep people motivated to meet deadlines and to meet expectations.
  • In your hiring process, keep in mind the importance of communication for international partners. Hire someone that demonstrates good and consistent communication.
  • Add the communication agreement to the list of requirements in the very beginning of the project.
  • To collect those great 'success stories' that are always hard to get:
    • Establish an online ‘story-bank’ – wiki, google doc
    • Share the good stories that you have received to use as an example for others, or possibly create competition (this could be good or bad).
    • Frame the request as "Tell me something that you would go home and tell your partner - something that you are proud of."
    • Use a voice recorder. Take pictures. This may be better than requiring a written document.
    • Explain how this work contributes to the success of the whole project. (funding, outcomes, etc)
    • Keep in mind privacy issues that may exist.
    • Designate one person to report these stories.
    • Give a stamped envelope to folks to send in their follow up stories.
  • Also important to manage expectations with donors. Build realistic expectations.