How can business help in the building of national coalitions and collaborations to fight COVID-19?

You are so right. Whatever we make now to get out of the crisis will define our new normal. We need to make sure we’re on a path we like, not just for this pandemic, but for the ones that come next!

A. Q2. What are the lessons we can learn from these different examples? What are the risks, opportunities and best practice?

The major risk which concerns me is nationalism in its various forms. The response to close borders moving people / goods does not need to impact services. My client B2R Technologies, a rural BPO, has used a lot of ingenuity to keep delivering important business and social services, giving jobs to rural youth who otherwise would have migrated out of their communities (brain drain). The BCP has benefited everyone!

We are also working on the design of a national coalition for economic recovery that brings together almost 100 organizations. Our main focus are (1) access to credit; (2) international commerce; (3) entrepreneurship and (4) capacity building for the new normal.


I agree Jane. This was a challenge even before the current crisis and now it is acute. Trying to spread limited capacity across ever more worthy initiatives.

I think this is a really important point - those with most capacity and resources tend to be the ones that are able to develop these coalitions and collaborations. Ensuring inclusive approaches is particularly tricky when operating at speed. Finding the right balance between efficiency and inclusivity is an ongoing challenge - clear principles are necessary but insufficient!

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The opportunity this movement has generated is the build up of considerable social capital. In an environment where business leaders have not always been viewed in the best of lights, the leadership and hard work plus financial contribution of our members has generated a very positive view. An asset that we believe should not be allowed to whither once the pandemic is under control. We face a number of economic challenges that this movement can pivot towards particularly with regards to kids who have been denied opportunities due to extreme poverty. We believe that by devoting our resources to this problem (in a similar way to the Irane Man Project run by the same core group that has financed and built 100 schools in poor villages in the country’s border regions) we can create opportunities and allow these children to grow into productive members of society and avoid the repeat of problems witnessed in other countries.


Me being really into governance, I’ve also noted that usual procedures are being increasingly abbreviated or completely short-circuited. Many more contracts are being given without proper tendering. Much less review and audit is occurring, and one wonders where that will lead us…

I agree Jane, there is a possibility of duplication which is not helpful in situations of scarce resources. Some sort of national effort is important, but it is often helpful to have sectoral or regional.local inititatives which are “closer to the ground” - but there needs to be overall coordination and coherence.

An effective platform is a complement to leadership, which is perhaps the key element in addressing this crisis. Platforms are effective if they supplements national leadership, by providing support from organisations trusted by groups in the population. Platforms can also amplify and disseminate messages ie improve communication, and they (may) enable better targeting of support and lower the costs of distributing support. Many of these impacts can be achieved by platforms below national level - if they are well-coordinated with each other.

This is also a challenge here in Brazil. Covid Radar , our coalition, is developing a guideline on how organizations may strengthen compliance processes

I think an industry wide approach that is really focusing on core business is absolutely key to keep sustainability going. I also think that we need to keep thinking of communication businesses absolutely imprtant the leadership of the government is absolutely critical.

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When it comes to learning lessons, we see that the usual relatively separate phases of design, implementation and evaluation are all occurring simultaneously in the (understandable) rush to action: some very good insights along these lines from a stellar thinker and global evaluator is available here

The governance question is key - and another reason to: a) build on existing relationships or platforms that already have good governance mechanisms; b) be transparent about the funds or other resources being mobilized and distributed; c) use evidence-based or scientifically rigorous messaging (although being aware that the science and knowledge of the pandemic’s public health, economic, human rights and other impacts are evolving day-by-day).

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If big business and government lobby for specific changes or actively work together to put in place new regulations that take the pressure off larger companies, we will see some change.

If grass-roots movements form and develop their own interventions which could be scaled, then we’ll see some change.

Only when we can align the grassroots movements with support from decision makers and policy makers will we beat this problem.

Business coalitions must work with SMEs, the informal sector (especially in LMICs), and governments. Not just NGOs and fellow businesses. Would love to hear examples of places that is happening in the global south.

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Couldn’t agree more Myriam!

Hi Emmanuel - I think the UN Global Compact’s 10 Principles are more important than ever - whether that is a single organisation or network.

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I would also say that cross-national platforms are needed. The need for governments to collaborate has been stated many times, but has happened only fitfully. But in addition MNCs are key players – because of their economic power and reach (through their global value chains - and they can reinforce (or undermine) collaborative national platforms, and can assist multilateral collaborations. How to get MNCs involved in a coordinated way in their multiple geographies is one of the biggest challenges

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Absolutely! Fully agree with your assessment Sam.

Totally agree - trying to coordinate between and connect different collaborations is complex at the best of times, it’s even harder now - highly networked people and organisations have a critical role to play in rapid sense-making and connection-spotting

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MNC’s like ours are being asked more and more by governments and others to support the health, social and economic recovery ahead of us. The incredibly disruptive nature of this crisis on economic and political systems can provide us with the impetus to make system changes looking at policies and approaches.


Yes to Sam’s great comments and diagram! The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated many of the existing cracks in our health, social and financial systems - and especially inequality of access and opportunity to essential products and services. As we move forward, one if the greatest responsibilities business and government leaders face is to start addressing some of these systemic problems and to build greater resilience in the above systems - including addressing issues such as social safety nets, living wage and hopefully universal health care and universal basic income.