Guillermo S. Edelberg
John C. Ickis
INCAE Business School Costa Rica
In mid 2002, architect Lorena Zamora, Education Committee Coordinator at the Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), studied the results of the aid provided by companies to educational institutions within the framework of its school sponsorship program. The committee had exercised little control over the program and needed to decide whether it should keep that policy or get more involved in defining support guidelines and setting minimum funding requirements for companies.
AmCham’s Education Committee had promoted the school sponsorship program in order to encourage private companies to provide direct support to needy educational institutions in Nicaragua. The program had been approved by Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (MECS). AmCham was responsible for driving the local business community to support education, getting companies to enroll and remain in the program, and serving as a liaison between companies and the MECS.
Every company-school team was viewed as an individual partnership within the global program endorsed by AmCham and approved by the MECS. Companies were driven to join the program for their individual motivations: proximity to schools, improving children’s living conditions, and the hope of recruiting better-qualified employees in the future. All participants shared a common mission and the goal of enhancing education in Nicaragua. The relationship between each school and its supporting company was restricted to the coordinated assistance provided by the sponsor, and the school’s capacity as recipient, sometimes based on plans and projects proposed by either party.
Strategies deployed by organizations remained unchanged. Sponsors did not change their strategic or management targets as a result of these alliances. Similarly, schools were not pressed to alter their policies or their internal management practices, which continued to comply with the standards set by the MECS or other governmental agencies. Partners were not involved in each other’s operations.
Since the beginning of the program in 2000, more than 50 companies supported educational institutions with varying results. In part, variations were due to the lack of common standards and minimum requirements for this support. Funding amounts and involvement degrees depended on, (among other factors) sponsors’ available resources, recipients’ initiatives and commitment on both sides.
The committee wanted to improve not only program quality, but also its scope and impact by seeking funds from external sources. An alternative was for the committee to become a non-governmental organization supporting education in to become eligible for more funding.
This case may be used in courses on social organizations’ management, to close a section on alliance building, to analyze a complex, cross-sector and multi-tiered partnerships. It may also prove useful in decision-making and negotiation programs or seminars.