How to tap into the power of partnerships

What does it take to run a robust and successful programme for entrepreneurs? Our latest hub training session on Programme Management featured a fireside chat with Director of Partnerships at African Management Institute, Andrea Warriner who shared advice and insights on how powerful partnerships can be in running strong programmes for business practitioners.

African Management Institute (AMI) is a pan-African social enterprise that focuses on enabling ambitious businesses to thrive through practical tools and training. AMI works with entrepreneurs and managers across the continent to deliver blended learning platforms and has offices in South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya and other satellite locations.

In the fireside chat facilitated by Viridian Programme Director Michelle Matthews, Andrea gave us a glimpse into her world and work as Director of Partnerships, and how AMI as an institution goes about sourcing, setting up, and maintaining relationships – particularly with funders – to strengthen their programme management and delivery.

These are the 5 key points that stood out during the conversation:


1. Don’t be afraid to take on small projects.

It might seem counterproductive, or the projected returns of a particular project might not look like they’re worth it. However, the right small projects have the ability to establish and strengthen your track record – which can have a great impact on securing larger funding opportunities. Andrea has seen the results of this in her work with AMI – firsthand:

“If you can deliver on those small projects and can communicate and measure your impact robustly and showcase that to a partner – you never know what that can lead to. Being faithful  with the small amounts is the best pathway there is to go with partners. This shows them what you can do with small projects. I’ve had these cases where we’ve taken a hit on a project. For example, we had one very small project we did and now we’ve received funding from the same funder for eight times the size. And that first project was loss making. It was such hard work for such small money, but it gave us a great track record,” says Andrea.

2. Apply for larger funding projects with partners (you’ve worked with before).

Both Andrea and Michelle agree that establishing credibility by delivering projects with like-minded partners as a consortium allows you to access funding opportunities you might not necessarily qualify for on your own.

“If you can broaden your programme with partners, the potential to access those larger pots of funding is there. Often we find with our [Viridian] funders and our clients that they need to see a group of partners or consortium that’s worked together on something before. Then there’s a clear fund to tap into because you can do it at scale.” – Michelle Matthews

3. Research. Research. Research.

Spending time mapping out the funding landscape as well as what kind of opportunities exist in your particular field can contribute greatly in discovering and deciding which partnerships work best for you.

“What we’re currently doing is spending a bit of time mapping funding opportunities: what fields do we want to prioritise? Maybe it’s gender focused funders, maybe it’s environmental focused funders. So we think a lot about who’s there, what they’re doing, and what kind of projects they’re funding. It’s essential to look in industries that align to your mission,” Andrea Warriner

Related to researching is using platforms like LinkedIn to reach out to individuals or organisations who align to your impact statement. For example, Andrea says that sending highly intentional and personalised inbox messages to people of interest, is working well for AMI.

4. Design programmes with your ecosystem context in mind – always.

Perhaps one of the biggest shifts Andrea has seen recently when it comes to what partner funders are looking for specifically in programme management and delivery, is the need for organisations to develop agile, and highly contextual programmes that respond to the direct needs of the entrepreneurs and communities they serve.

“For example, you can train entrepreneurs until the cows come home on hospitality and tourism and how to run a hospitality business but what are you going to do when a pandemic hits and there is no tourism industry anymore? You need to begin to look at things like ‘how do we pipeline our entrepreneurs to relief funding’, or ‘how do we help them get onto digital platforms that help them launch new products and services’. Or how do we equip government support programmes to better support entrepreneurs in the situations they’re in now. It becomes more of an ecosystems-based approach. That’s what we’re seeing more and more of.” – Andrea Warriner

“You’re creating and delivering a program and you want outcomes but there’s a context around that that becomes more and more important to see how you can draw in and also talk about and expand your impact.” -Michelle Matthews

5. Craft your story of impact – and tell it well.

Reporting on your organisation’s impact through solid means of monitoring and evaluation can play an immense role in showcasing your expertise. This can attract funder partners and other collaborators. Andrea elaborates:

“What we do is look at the areas we’re trying to prioritise and then craft our stories around that. We put a lot of time and resources pulling the data on the types of businesses we’ve worked with, testimonials from clients, doing thematic pieces and more so that when we’re reaching out to funders and applying for opportunities, we have something quite packaged and targeted.” -Andrea Warriner

A big thank you to Andrea Warriner for joining our fireside chat and for the incredible insights she shared with our ESO hub community!

Do you work in an ESO and are looking to meet individuals who are doing impactful work just like you? Contact us via email on to take part in our next training programme in early 2022. 

**Speaker quotes have been edited for length and clarity.