Alianza Shire in the Humanitarian Energy Conference. Addis Abeba, julio 2019

Javier Mazorra and Manuel Pastor, from the Alianza Shire technical team, are participating in the Humanitarian Energy Conferenceheld on Addis Ababa (ethiopia), July 31th and August 1st.

Humanitarian-Private Partnerships: Lessons from the practice

Intervention summary by Javier Mazorra

During this presentation I will focus on three main questions and try to answer them with the lessons learned from the practice by Alianza Shire:

  • First, what do we understand for a multi-stakeholder partnership?
  • Second, why do we have to work through partnerships and to improve the collaboration schemes we are using?
  • And lastly, and in our opinion the most important question, how can we develop effective partnerships and going beyond rhetoric calls to work through partnerships?

So, beginning with what do we understand for a multi-stakeholder partnership, it is important to point out that the need of better collaboration with different sectors is set on the Agenda for Humanity’s core commitments or on the SDG, through the SDG 17.


But, it is important to think on the final aim of this multi-stake holder collaborations. Both Agendas (Humanity and SDG) have focus on transformation so there is a need to develop partnerships that contributes to create systemic changes, those called transformative partnerships. Transformational change resulting from collaboration is the one at the end change the “rules of the games” on specific sectors.

Obviously, to arrive to a transformative partnership there is a need to enhance the potential of partners to generate meaningful shared value as they evolve through four stages of collaboration.

Within this framework we formed “Alianza Shire.

Energy Access to refugees and host communities” in 2014 with the aim of developing a transformative partnership.

Alianza Shire is formed by the Spanish companies Iberdrola and Signify, The Energy & Water Foundation, The Innovation and Technology for Development Centre at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (itdUPM) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), with the collaboration of UNHCR, with the aim of developing sustainable solutions of energy in refugee camps and host communities.

We have developed a pilot project in one of the Shire Refugee Camps, North Ethiopia, benefiting 8.000 thousand refugees. Since 2018, we are scaling-up that project to the four camps in Shire targeting 40.000 thousand people in the refugee camps and host communities with ZOA Ngo as implementing partner.

Collaborative scheme

In this collaborative scheme, each member has a different and contributes with different but complementary capabilities depending on their expertise:

  • Humanitarian organisations: context knowledge, operational capabilities and know-how in humanitarian settings.
  • Innovation departments private Sector: know-how and innovation. From different departments and different background compared single consultant.
  • University: research and knowledge. Brokering organisation.
  • Refugees and host community: from beneficiaries to service users and active stakeholders.

Once we know the what, it is also important to point out why to create this kind of partnerships.

Most problems we are facing in humanitarian settings can be defined as wicked problems. A wicked problem could be defined as:

  • A problem without a unique solution due to its complexity,
  • connection with many other problems and
  • do not have a definitive definition as they are different in each location where we find them.
  • Also, they are characterized because there is not a unique solution to them,
  • there is no idealized end state to arrive at
  • and normally teams approaching them has to make things up as they go along.

I think everyone now on the room could be identified whit this definition when speaking about access to energy for Crisis-Affected Communities.

Traditional approaches are not valid

Taking this into account, traditional approaches are not valid to solve this kind of problems. To solve them, we need to partner with different stakeholders contributing with complementary skills and capabilities on radical collaboration schemes that fosters innovations. If we achieve that kind schemes, through partnerships for examples, sustainable solutions will emerge that could contribute to partially to tackle the problem.

How to develop effective and successful multi-stakeholder partnerships

But this is not easy to do, and I know all my previous statements could sound quite rhetoric and a generic call to partner. However, during the last five year we have gathered several lessons learned on different topics on how to develop effective and successful multi-stakeholder partnerships:

  • Norms and procedures: Adequate rules and regulations are needed to facilitate the legal and institutional fit of alliances. These regulations should promote reciprocal relations between the partners (where the donor-recipient dichotomy is abandoned), in which each partner assigns resources and complementary capacities for achieving a common goal, while risks and accomplishments are shared among all.
  • Management: to develop more open and flexible management processes, which promote diversity (by integrating all the involved parties in the diagnosis and design, and not only in the execution), and where traditional planning processes can take place within approaches that pursue systemic change.
  • Values/incentives: partnerships must pay close attention to shared values. Working in truly cooperative and multi-stakeholder environments requires empathy, generosity and tolerance towards failure. Generating lasting relationships that exceed a project’s time horizon requires significant doses of institutional and financial energy, and a well distributed and transformative leadership.
  • Enabling and learning spaces: on the one hand, action-oriented projects where the differential and transformative value of this way of working can be demonstrated, and on the other, spaces that ensure learning and that “the project does not eclipse innovation”. These spaces (enabling environments, backbones, or labs) can serve to stably integrate technical and scientific capacities in an extreme context (such as refugee camps), re-frame problems and develop new narratives, test new regulatory frameworks and, in short, incubate new actions that ensure an alliance continuity.
  • Brokering entity



In conclusion, in order to tackle this kind of wicked problems, there is a need to develop new transformative multi-stakeholder partnerships based on radical collaboration schemes where innovations is fostered and new solutions to old problems emerged.


A presentation of Alianza Shire

Intervention summary by Manuel Pastor

Alianza Shire is a Spanish Partnership, formed by the itdUPM, the Spanish Cooperation Agency from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and three leading Spanish companies in the energy sector which aims at improving energy services to refugees and host communities.

The main objective of my presentation is to explain the decision-making process regarding the different solutions for electricity access in which we are working through our experience in Shire refugee camps.

We work in Shire refugee camps, in the North of Ethiopia. There are four camps with a global population over 50.000 eritrean refugees.

Some of the camps have been active for more than ten years, so apart from exceptional situations or picks in the influx of refugees, there is not a context of emergency but a stable situation.

From 2014 to 2017, we implemented a pilot project in Adi-Harush camp, where more than 8.000 Eritrean refugees where leaving.

Since the resources were limited and it was our first experience, the project focused in the national grid extension to the communal services in the camp, as well as the installation of street lighting, in order to maximize the impact of the intervention and reach as much population as possible.

Concretely, we connected 14 communal services to the grid, including the primary school, the health centre, communal kitchens, etc.

Regarding the communal kitchens, they are installations that have around 10 electrical stoves and that allow a high proportion of the population to cook the Ethiopian traditional bread, the injera.

In addition, we installed over 2 km of street lighting in the main roads of the camp.

The process for the implementation was: first the technical staff of the companies provided theoretical training to a group of refugees and hosts.

Then, the practical training consisted in the actual installation of the equipment in the camp, and finally we created a group of operators to be in charge of the maintenance of the installations.

The main impacts of the intervention were: reduction in the deforestation and CO2 emissions due to the use of the communal kitchens, reduction in the fuel cost of the implementing partners that run the communal facilities with diesel generators and a reduction in the number of robberies during the night.

Fase II

After the experience of the pilot project, we are scaling it up to the four Shire refugee camps and their host communities under the Trust Fund of the European Union for the Horn of Africa.

This project started in 2018 and will finish by 2021, and have two main components: one on-grid and one off-grid.

The on-grid component will consist in the connection to the grid of all the remaining communal services in the camps, as well as in the installation of over 20 km of street lighting in the refugee camps and some areas of the host community, with a similar approach to the pilot project.

In addition, we carried out an assessment about the energy consumption in the businesses in the camp, and we found that there is a huge expenditure in electricity service for high-energy demand businesses, like restaurants, cinemas or barberries.

Some of these businesses, as a first experience in the camps, will be connected to the national grid.

Taking into account the shortage of power in the country, and trying to overload the gird in the area around the camps, small businesses like shops and households will be targeted with the off-grid component.

Since they have a limited electricity demand, the solution we chose is to provide the service through solar home systems.

The SHS will provide service for two lights, mobile charge and small appliances like TV, radio or fan.

This will be done through the creation of refugees and hosts-owned micro-business that will carry out the maintenance and operation of the SHS.

For that, the users will pay a monthly fee for the use of the system, not for the ownership.

In this way, since the users pay for the service and not for the product, if the connection to the grid can be extended to the household level, the SHS can be transferred to other population in need.