As part of the roadmap for systematically engaging business as a partner in development, we would like to set out a vision for a collaborative society that is so compelling that it acts as an inexorable draw for organisations to aspire to. There is value in taking a step back from the nuts and bolts of partnership and reminding ourselves what it is that we are trying to achieve over the long term.
As the post-2015 development architecture is being debated and put in place, the role of business as a partner in development remains a critical subject of debate. While an increasing number of commentators and practitioners agree that business has an essential role to play, translating the rhetoric into action is far from straightforward.
If you ask a room full of people to rate how good they are at partnering, the chances are that most will rate themselves very highly. After all, it’s a natural human instinct, isn’t it? We do it all the time in our personal relationships, with our colleagues at work, in sports teams.
From The Partnering Initiative’s decade of experience working with business, the UN, NGOs and donors, when it comes to partnerships with those dissimilar to ourselves – such as across continents or across societal sectors – the picture changes completely.
Solving today’s complex sustainable development challenges requires multi-sector collaboration and an all-of-society approach. However, whilst such shared value partnerships (simultaneously achieving business and societal benefits) are often hailed as “the answer,” practitioners can find them challenging and at times frustrating.
When we started to implement the Business Innovation Facility (BIF), a programme funded by DFID and managed by an alliance including TPI, I was among many who thought that supporting companies to partner would be central to what unfolded over the three years of the pilot.