External relations 

Building external support for your initiative is crucial.  This section will describe:

The key messages regarding external relations are be open and proactive; 
let people know what you are doing;  and involve them from day one.

An important issue is building a ‘culture of partnership’.  This is a culture where everyone (other agencies, law enforcement agencies, community members, policymakers) is recognised as being in a collaboration, seeking similar goals and outcomes.  Such collaborations should shared, open communication to new ideas, insight and new partnerships.

Prior to the start of your activity, it is important to get adequate information on all relevant organisations, their aims, approaches, start dates, and a contact person, etc.  It is advisable to inform representatives of the most relevant organisations what you intend to do before the actual start of a project.  A personal talk or an invitation is more effective than sending written information.  In this first meeting or discussion, the goals and the approach of the peer support project can be outlined and explained.  The occasion can also serve as part of the needs assessment see INITIATE/Collecting information.

Key points
Some important key points when working with other initiatives, agencies and actors (stakeholders) in the field are: (source:  HIV/AIDS Alliance  http://www.aidsalliance.org/includes/Publication/Peer_education_manual.pdf)

  • Have a clear objective about what kind of role stakeholders will play in the programme and why they need to be involved.
  • Keep stakeholders informed.
  • Plan and budget for stakeholder involvement (resources, time, and so on).
  • Conduct a stakeholder mapping – who, why, where, how?
  • Identify common ground, goals and objectives among different stakeholders.
  • Develop a memorandum of understanding as a statement of commitment to co-operation or partnership.
  • Educate stakeholders about drug use, HIV and harm reduction by cultural sensitivity and educational workshops, study tours, and so on.
  • Integrate the programme within existing services, local plans and targets so that community stakeholders understand how your new programme fits in.
  • Build relationships and networks with key stakeholders using both informal and formal means.
  • Develop relationships with local as well as senior officials, such as local police officers and senior police chiefs.  Police harassment or abuse often happens at the ground level, so local street-based police are just as important stakeholders as the senior decision-makers.
  • Develop activities to demonstrate that stakeholders are valued and have important contributions to offer the programme.  Build a sense of ownership of the issues and the harm reduction response.
  • Keep stakeholders continually informed.  Establish regular scheduled meetings and share reports, research, evaluation findings and success stories with them.
  • Set up community advisory committees made up of different stakeholders.
  • Invite stakeholders to see the programme in action.