Strongly agree with Simon. Ultimately this is about improving the quality of governance and the commitment and capacity of governments to deliver on their commitments to achieving the SDGs and meeting their responsibilities to their citizens.
How can joint advocacy between civil society and business help to drive the policies needed to achieve the SDGs?
To enable more advocacy collaboration to happen, it is important to set a clear culture of measurement, monitoring and evaluation in existing or new partnerships to ensure delivery but also to demonstrate the impact of any joint advocacy and gain support for such action.
One practical suggestion, one more esoteric. First I think we could do with help in identifying more of those ‘sweet spot’ issues where the aims of a business and NGO might align - this is likely to be quite specific. Most NGOs (except the very large) tend to focus on a limited number of changes they are seeking - and it is no mean feat to find a business who’s interests align. Second, it would be good to hear from more businesses that they are willing and open to participate in these efforts, and everything that goes with them, the better. I think too many of us still assume that the financial bottom line trumps everything across the private sector, and I don’t believe that’s still the case (if it ever was).
The joint advocacy efforts that CARE USA has participated in with corporate partners have all stemmed from partnerships on joint programmatic work. By building a relationship and trust through work together in the field, we were able to build off of that foundation into advocacy work, which has a unique set of complications and potential pitfalls that must be navigated that have already been discussed today. So as we look to other opportunities going forward, I think we’ll be drawing from other non-advocacy partnerships that can be deepened and broadened and further developed through advocacy, after having gone through the process of building a relationship, establishing trust and a baseline of common values and principles.
agree, monitoring - absolutely. Patience - imperative! - let’s not cherry pick easy stuff - transformation takes a very long time
I agree - but business can also help us here. Our partner, Zurich, is not only pressing us to ensure we report better on outcomes and impact, they are providing us with experts to help formulate the M&E strategy, and software to process it.
I agree it takes time! It also takes scale. Partnerships and collaborations, are a key for the realisation of the SDGs as the responsibility and delivery of those goals will not come from one single actor or group. At GSK, we recognise that as two partners – GSK and Save the Children – we can work together and make a significant impact to a global challenge like ending the deaths of children under 5 from preventable causes, but we also need to build broader coalitions. The global scale of the SDGs can only be achieved if we maximise our efforts and advocate to, and with, partners beyond GSK and Save the Children. This includes governments, international bodies, other NGOs, the private sector and the global community. The challenge is to bring together the right stakeholders, with complementary skills, reach and resources, without achieving a size that is unwieldly and therefore prevents progress. Clear leadership and coordination, clear objectives and a valued and appropriate involvement from different stakeholder groups will all be needed.
very savvy of them - we should all include that package in future arrangements. The more businesses find their social purpose the more I can see joint work like advocacy developing. The whole “business purpose” awakening is a parallel and connected track.
One important learning I have taken from the report and discussions is to develop a stronger theory of change for what we are working on. What needs to change, who has the power to make that change, what will persuade them to change. If these are considered then the actions can be tested against this theory of change. It will avoid doing things that look good in favour of doing things that are likely to bring the most change.
When the GSK-Save the Children partnership started, we discussed reputational risks. I remember pointing out that these might not only be risks for the NGO from the reputation of the company. This has proved to be true recently and a good partnership needs to be able to withstand these (from both directions) through dialogue and long-term commitment.
Rachael - Some people say with established programmatic partnerships between a business and an NGO it can be hard to bring in other advocacy partners to widen support - perhaps because of the specificity of the partnership goal. Has this been your experience?
Really great conversation! We’ll leave this forum discussion open - so please do continue to share your ideas and examples. Thank you to all our panelists - and to all of you who joined us today.
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This report was produced as part of the Business Fights Poverty Challenge on Business-NGO Advocacy Partnerships for the SDGs. Read more here.
Building on Dominic’s comment about “We Mean Business” - I think there is untapped potential and a growing need for “coalitions of coalitions” to be formed around specific SDGs or global challenges. In the same way that various business-led and investor coalitions came together under the umbrella of “We Mean Business” and then also worked with NGO and city-led coalitions on creating the “We Are Still In” initiative in the United States, all focused on climate change - we need the same approach around issues such as food security (and efforts are underway on that front to bring together various existing coalitions around a common voice and policy platform), as well as other challenges such as education, health etc. There is a lot more that can be done in building, strengthening and scaling the quantity and quality of civil society-business advocacy collaboration. We look forward to continuing to be part of the conversation and part of efforts to gather more evidence and examples of what works and what doesn’t.
This is a lesson for all advocacy, not just business partnerships - and obviously not new to anyone on this thread - but the most effective advocacy efforts generally have quite specific outcomes in mind - ie we are looking for a particular set of decision-makers to make a particular set of decisions. How we’ll go about achieving them ought to be based on a very clear understanding of what motivates and drives those decision-makers. It would be helpful to understand that even before deciding whether a business/civil society partnership is the way to go, and certainly inform what that partnership should actually do…
I guess, the key words are integrity and coherence.
You can only be credible and successful, if all organisation works on the basis of the certain principles and values.
Public advocacy can help with public reputation. Doing good is a valuable currency. But we should not let it get devalued soon generating cynicism if the general business practice is not based on the same ‘doing good and right thing’ principles.
Learning is critical, we have many policies that have failed because they were one sided from inception. NGO’s need to learn from the business community and vice versa, to avoid what I would call policy glut. It is important that we also understand the interests of the communities so we can develop a policy change that is inclusive with low risk of failure
I would highlight again the importance of senior leadership support one the reasons we have undertaken ground breaking work with Unilever on social norms is because they have the weight of their senior leadership behind it. Paul Polman is one of leading corporate figures on corporate sustainability https://views-voices.oxfam.org.uk/gender/wee/2017/09/how-businesses-can-tackle-social-norms-that-limit-women
Thanks everyone for a great discussion.
2 useful resources i would recommend:
Duncan Green, How change happenshttp://how-change-happens.com
Networked change -http://netchange.co/networked-change
Hello to all. I am Tula Ducasse, BBVA Microfinance Foundation. I would like to share our experience in joint advocacy activities we have carried out with the UN. In particular with UN Women and the SDG-Fund. In our view it has been a fruitful experience. As a Foundation created in the framework of the Corporate Social Responsibility of BBVA, a global financial group, we reach different audiences than other development organizations, in particular within the private sector. For our organization it helps to raise awareness of the need of financial inclusion of low income entrepreneurs. Recently we have involved Microsoft in joint advocacy on the need of access to the benefits of the digital transformation for low income entrepreneurs.
Together we attract greater attention.
Thank you to all for the interesting debate.