How do others support branches to develop?
The first people responsible for developing a branch are the branch itself, its members, volunteers, staff  and the committee or governing body that has overall responsibility of the branch.

This section explores how two other groups can support a branch to develop itself: the wider National Society, and (if they are present) international partners.
The role of the National Headquarters

Most National Societies have a branch development or organisational development function that works with branches to support their development. The extent to which the national organisation can direct what branches do depends on branch legal status and how National Society Statutes define the relationship between branches and the wider National Society.

Below are some typical activities by National Societies to strengthen individual branches and the overall network of branches.

Engagement and influence

Governing Board members and senior managers engage with the branch to encourage changed behaviours and / or ways of working. This can be informally, or formally through Governing Board process and decisions

Policy and guidance

The Governing Board develops national policy for implementation across the National Society. Guidance is developed to support branches to implement policy.

Networking and peer learning

The National Society develops mechanisms that encourage and support branches to learn directly from one another, both formally and informally.

Branch assessments

National Societies carry out branch assessments on a regular basis, and measure how individual branches perform over time. BOCA is one tool that can form a basis for branch assessment, but many National Societies develop their own internal assessments based on BOCA and other tools.

Statutes revision processes

Revising National Society statutes is an opportunity to discuss and potentially re-define the relationship between individual branches and the rest of the National Society. 

Branch innovation

Branches often develop new ideas and ways of working that can be used and developed in the rest of the National Society. Sometimes these arise spontaneously in response to a specific challenge. In other cases, the national headquarters may work with a branch to test a new activity or way of working. Promoting and sharing such innovation and new ideas between branches through peer learning can be a rapid way to spread new ideas through a National Society.

The role of international partners

Sometimes branches work with international partners who provide financing to carry out short term projects. Such relationships can be a source of skills and financial resources for branches

However, big projects can also damage long-term branch development, as financial resources change the way that the branch is perceived in communities, and volunteers and members start to expect payment for their engagement, or lose interest in developing and resourcing branch activities.

Some international projects do not include resources to support the long development of the branch in which projects have been carried out.

When international partners work with a few branches in a National Society, this can cause challenges between branches, as some branches receive investment, materials and training, and others do not.

Below are some strategies for international partners to support long-term branch development.


Distinguish short-term needs and long-term capacity

When engaging with a Branch for projects, define with the National Society and their branches, whether the project is responding to short-term need, or whether it is (will become) a core activity of the branch in the long run.

If former, you may want to build operational capacities in a way it will not harm and distract the branch and able to scale-down. If latter, you may want to consider how the branches themselves are able to continue carry the activity with low-cost, local resource and build capacities for the branches within the project.  

Invest in National Society branch development processes

Partners can include resources to support individual branch development plans and also national branch development processes.

Plan for sustainability from the start

Planning to identify what capacities and resources will remain in the branch, and how these will be sustained beyond the project period is a key aspect of project development. If there will be costs to the branch (for example in disposing of equipment, or paying contractual costs), these should be identified at the start and adequate resources made available. At the same time invest in branches to make local partnership and local resource mobilisation, to be able to maintain such cost in the long-term and avoid dependency. 

Avoid conducting assessment solely for project purpose

Some cases, partners intend to conduct branch assessment to define the branch capacity and use it as a baseline for project engagement.

Whenever assessments are considered, it should be agreed with the National headquarter and define how it may contribute and be utilized for the National Society's long-term branch development plan. It should also follow the National Society's standards and defined tools (if this is already defined). 

In case the National Society does not have capacity and funds to conduct assessment beyond the project-supported-branches, consider how you can extend the support for other branches (e.g. inviting other branches to learn how to conduct assessment) so the National headquarter can better identify the branch capacity across its organisation. 

Involve other branches in trainings

Partners may be able to include branches not delivering projects in trainings. In this way skills and knowledge can be shared between branches, even if not all branches carry out projects.

Share the learning

The learning from the branch you are engaging with, should be shared to the National Headquarter to support thier thinking and action in applying such learning to other branches across the National Society.

Three questions
How could we work better with other parts of the National Society to become stronger?
Can our local public authorities support us to get stronger?
How are international partners contributing to our long-term strengthening?