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on a positive impact

Strength, support, and security for Afghanistan’s refugees

How a unique new partnership is scaling up job creation for thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons in Afghanistan
ByAlona Perunova, 2017 J&J Secondee

Hand in Hand International has been a Secondment partner of Johnson & Johnson since 2016. The NGO supports the economic and social empowerment of women, youth and men — and therefore society — by supporting the creation of sustainable enterprises and jobs through the development of micro-businesses.

To date, four J&J employees from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa have been seconded to Hand in Hand International, sharing their skills and knowledge in long-term assignments to support the organization in business development and corporate fundraising.  

In 2017, I was seconded to Hand in Hand International in London for six months to help expand Hand in Hand’s pipeline of prospective governmental and intra-governmental donors, foundations and high potential partners.

A key outcome of my Secondment was to establish a partnership with GIZ, the international development arm of the German Government. This resulted in a four-month grant to Hand in Hand to implement a pilot program in Afghanistan to help 500 refugees and internally displaced people work their way towards a more sustainable future through the country’s growing poultry value chain.

This World Refugee Day, I’m sharing my interview with the Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact team to show what good we can achieve when we bring together the best minds from multiple sectors to tackle challenges as important as the wellbeing of refugees. Learn about the J&J Secondment Program that enabled me to share my private sector skills with one of our NGO partners, as well as the collaboration between Hand in Hand and the German government that has now reached more than two thousand beneficiaries and their families. We need more of these kinds of collaborations!

J&J: Alona, what is GIZ and why is it important to Hand in Hand International (HiH)?

AP: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is the German government’s development agency. The agency is responsible for implementing advisory projects that enhance the capacities of individuals, organizations and societies to improve their living conditions through the efficient and sustainable use of resources in order to achieve their goals.

In 2013, HiH pledged to “scale up job creation rapidly and effectively by co-operating with partners,” and by the end of 2021, HiH wants to create more than 250,000 jobs by partnering with governments and likeminded NGOs. A strategic partnership with GIZ will definitely help the organization achieve this ambitious goal!

J&J: How did you make contact with them?

AP: It was basically a four-step process I created that was aimed at delivering added value to both parties concerned. I wanted to look at funding in a different way and how to attract potential donors.

First, I analyzed statistics relevant to Hand in Hand’s focus areas and identified the top 13 high potential donor countries that have a large share of aid focused on women’s empowerment and job creation and in the right geographical location (i.e. countries where Hand in Hand operates). The result was that Germany was No 1 on the list!

Second, I researched and mapped relevant German institutional stakeholders. However, the German state aid system is a real jungle! It took me more than a month to understand how the system worked and to identify key actors and institutions. The result was that GIZ and BMZ, the Ministry that commissions GIZ, were the most relevant!

Third, I mapped appropriate entry points to both GIZ and BMZ and identified their contact details (via website data, articles, LinkedIn etc.).

And fourth, I created a new strategy for the first point of contact by inviting potential donors to join Hand in Hand in a shared learning experience (not for funding). And it worked!

When I contacted the GIZ Project Manager in Afghanistan, I offered him a knowledge sharing session. He agreed and during a Skype call we identified a definite synergy between the two organizations.

J&J: What is the impact of this partnership?

AP: Now that the partnership has been expanded, some 2,000 returnees and IDPs in Afghanistan are well on their way to having strong, sustainable livelihoods. With the money they earn, they’ll be able to pay their children’s school fees and put food on the table. Accounting for their average family size of seven, then, that’s 14,000 improved lives. I feel incredibly proud to have played a role in making that happen.

J&J: How does this partnership benefit the NGO?

AP: As well as receiving valuable funding for HiH’s work in Afghanistan – one of the most challenging operating countries with an extreme lack of funding – the GIZ partnership also positions HiH as a trustworthy partner for other German donors, especially institutional German donors, who tend to support German-based NGOs only. In addition, the expanding partnership with GIZ means that HiH International can apply for BMZ direct funding. And finally, as GIZ and BMZ both support East Africa and India, this means that Hand in Hand could potentially expand collaboration in these regions too.

J&J: How do you feel about making this connection possible?

AP: I always knew that everything is possible, and limits are only in our minds. Stay calm and think logically, structurally and act-act-act. We all achieve by doing.

J&J: How did your skills and knowledge contribute to the role and what do you feel you learnt from the experience?

AP: As a supply chain professional with more than 10 years of experience, I am used to managing different projects. Achieving funding from the German government was my personal ambitious target for this Secondment and I decided to take it as a project, step by step.

In my everyday job, I cooperate with different stakeholders including state authorities, and for that reason I clearly understood how to build relationships with GIZ from scratch.

Now I feel more confident in networking on an international level and have a deeper understanding of multicultural differences. I feel even more empowered, inspired and energized to meet new challenges and adventures upon my return to J&J.