by Dave Prescott
The roadmap for business engagement in partnership, being launched at GPEDC in Mexico in April, is based on a series of linked propositions. These draw on a recent BAA / Harvard CSRI / TPI report, and they have been refined during the roadmap interview process. In this blog article we are inviting feedback and challenge on these propositions.
1. Reframe the private sector as a source of problem solving capabilities. Our first hypothesis is that there needs to be greater understanding of the role that business can play in development through partnership, and trust between sectors. Government, business, donors and civil society all work differently, talk different languages, and have different motivations and timescales. When the sectors do communicate, they don’t always understand or trust each other. More cross-sector dialogue and communication can only help; but development challenges should be expressed clearly and in ways that are relevant to a local context. They should also be expressed in terms of a problem requiring a solution. This paves the way for business to be engaged as problem-solver.
2. Engage business in the national development planning process. Our second hypothesis is that more work needs to be done nationally and locally by governments to identify the potential contribution of partnerships in their own context. In other words, as part of a country’s development planning processes, attention should be paid to the potential for business engagement – while remaining aware of the need for open, transparent markets. Tanzania, for example, has identified partnerships with business as key to delivering the country’s current five-year development plan. GIZ’s ‘Partnership Landscape Analysis’ is an example of the kind of approach that we are advocating.
3. Create multi-stakeholder platforms that can drive partnership action at the national and local level.These can help engage business more systematically. In parallel to the development of the roadmap, TPI is undertaking a thorough analysis of country-level multi-stakeholder ‘platforms’. These platforms bring together local actors from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors to improve dialogue and jointly to generate partnerships for development. Platforms of this kind most directly reflect the priorities articulated at Busan – they are at country level; based on the alignment of interests between participating actors; and committed to practical, measurable impact on development needs.
4. Measure and understand partnership impacts more effectively. There is currently a lack of tools and meaningful information about what partnerships achieve, although this gap is rapidly being filled by organisations such as the DCED – which recently reviewed donor partnerships with business by assessing additionality, measuring results and achieving better development outcomes. Not least among the challenges is interpretation of data: as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative has demonstrated, it is one thing to publish data, but to make it meaningful it must be interpreted and explained in many ways in many different settings.
5. Make organisations (across sectors) ‘fit for partnering’. As outlined in this blog by Katie Fry Hester, organisations need the right leadership & strategy, internal systems and processes, champions, and a culture that supports collaborative working. For example, donors may need to change their structures to enable more nimble decision-making. Companies may need to acknowledge that working in partnership may be more intensive than doing something unilaterally, and therefore partnership requires additional resources. However, being ‘fit for partnering’ manifests in different ways and may boil down to having the right person in the right place at the right time. A small company with the right person in place can achieve a lot; a large company may not be able to engage effectively despite having more resources.
6. Individuals within organisations need to have the right skills and mindsets for partnering. Technical skills (such as developing a partnering MoU) can be learned to some extent through training. Ultimately, though, having the right mindset implies a deeper shift, relating to values, worldview and outlook. One of our roadmap interviewees suggested that, as long as the current senior management was setting the tone of their organisation, partnership progress would remain at a glacial pace.
Which of these propositions would your organisation endorse? How can the propositions be improved? Are we missing anything?
HAVE YOUR SAY!
Join the live online discussion Thursday 20th February
This blog originally appeared on businessfightspoverty.org (here)