How can we systematically engage business as a partner in development?

(Dave Prescott) #1

Welcome to this online discussion! Today, with the help of our expert discussion panel, we are going to be discussing a ‘roadmap for systematically engaging business as a partner in development’. The roadmap will be launched at the GPEDC (Global Partnership for Effective Development) High Level Meeting in Mexico in April.

We are currently engaged in an extensive round of interviews and desk research and we would like to share some of the emerging findings and key questions with you.

Please can we run through each of the following five areas. Please share your thoughts and specific examples as we go through.

There is a need to engage business at the highest levels of the decision-making process. The work of drawing up the post-2015 development architecture remains subject to conventional political processes; opportunities for business to participate at the highest levels remain rare. However, an increasing number of organisations within the development community are now talking about partnership with business, and business is willing and ready to engage in shaping the development agenda. What are the barriers to more direct engagement of business in the post-2015 agenda development, and what are the best ways to overcome these obstacles?

National development planning processes can align more effectively with potential business contributions. Tanzania is one example where business appears to be engaging successfully in the creation of the country’s five-year development plan. However when we have suggested this kind of approach as a way forward during our interviews, a few people have responded that it risks leading to protectionism or market distortion. How can this risk be managed? What are the most effective and legitimate ways for business to play a meaningful and productive role in a country’s development planning process?

Multi-stakeholder platforms can drive partnership action at the national and local level. In parallel to the development of the roadmap, TPI is undertaking a thorough analysis of country-level multi-stakeholder platforms. These appear to be a successful means to catalyse multiple, locally-rooted partnerships based on clear shared objectives and linked to clear outcomes. Have you participated in a platform, and if so what has been your experience?

Partnership impact assessment remains a complex area.Although pioneering work is being done on impact assessment by DCED and others, the complexity of this subject remains a stumbling block. Put simply, if we can’t prove that partnerships work, how can we recommend more of them? What are the most effective methods of impact assessment that you have come across, either through a partnership or elsewhere in the field of development?

Organisations should be ‘fit for partnering’ – but much boils down to having the right person in the right place at the right time. Our experience suggests that organisations need the right leadership and strategy, internal systems and processes, and a culture that supports collaborative working. However, even in organisations with a lot of partnering experience, a supportive internal culture and people with a collaborative mindset, this does not guarantee that individuals will able to identify a partnership opportunity. How can organisations maximise the chances of having the right person in the right place at the right time?

Many thanks for your involvement! Input from this online discussion, as well as the associated survey will inform the roadmap and discussions in Mexico.

Editor's Note:

This discussion is part of a series with The Partnering Initiative.

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(Geoffrey Sakulanda) #2

In termx of Public PRivate sector engagement, i am looking at strengthening the formal platforms for dialogue between governments and private sector as a firxt step.

This is essential to remove a misunderstanding of each sides objectives and aspirations.

It will always remain important and relevant for governments to embrace the private sector as an equal partnership in the development agenda of a country.

The growth and profit agenda of business dovetails perfectly with the govern, ent agenda to grow the economy and job creation and itsbimpact on poverty eleviation.

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(Albena Melin) #3

Geoffrey! I could not more than agree with you that it is essential for Governments to embrace the private sector(and its diversity!) as an equal partner on the path to growth and development of their countries. Through the dialogues and hubs we help create, a lot of work remains to be done to do away with mistrust and often wrong perceptions of each others motives - and instead focus on what we can deliver jointly using each others specific knowledge and expertise. Maybe we can work on the language too, as business can often be put off by too excessive policy terminology and bureaucratic speak!

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(Valerie Amato) #4

Good morning/afternoon

I am particularly interested in the promotion and facilitation of collaborative leadership in the international development context.

Any views on needs/gaps and the appropriate platforms that would be required?

Valerie.

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(Zahid Torres-Rahman) #5

Welcome to this live panel discussion! We're joined by a great panel to explore some of the research findings from The Partnering Initiative around how to systematically engage business as a partner in development.

The plan is that we are going to work through each of the five key emerging findings from their research. Please share your thoughts and examples!

So let's kick off with the first area:

There is a need to engage business at the highest levels of the decision-making process. The work of drawing up the post-2015 development architecture remains subject to conventional political processes; opportunities for business to participate at the highest levels remain rare. However, an increasing number of organisations within the development community are now talking about partnership with business, and business is willing and ready to engage in shaping the development agenda. What are the barriers to more direct engagement of business in the post-2015 agenda development, and what are the best ways to overcome these obstacles?

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(Todd Kirkbride) #6

How do we hear this discussion?

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(Jo Wackrill) #7

Hello Zahid!

One of the key questions is who should represent business in these discussions - is one of the barriers that our business representative organisations are not well equipped for engagement on development issues at the highest levels - this has historically not been their role - or is there a lack of cohesion amongst these organisations?

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(Mike Wisheart) #8

Hi. A couple of observations to start with. On the basis that business is an essential contributor to the effort to achieve a sustainable end to poverty, we do need a broader and deeper engagement of companies in the questions of how post-2015 goals could be achieved. Businesses come in all shapes and sizes and broadly speaking it’s been primarily a relatively small number of MNCs who have been able to engage in the international processes to date. For example, the Unilever report on their outreach to the private sector on post 2015, whilst being extensive in many ways, also admitted a “bias towards multi-nationals”. How can we get to hear from SMEs and national companies, which no doubt will have different contributions to make to the debate?

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(Albena Melin) #9

Thanks, Zahid. I see some of the biggest barriers being still that such processes are internationally negotiated agreements between governments even though many organisations withing the development community are pushing hard to get business in and their voice and perspectives heard. We need to find ways of how business can be accredited to be heard in the international intergovernmental negotiations but before this, there needs to be broad agreement and acknowledgement that business IS an equal partner in development. The High level Panel Report on Post 2015 elaborated nicely on that!

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(Mike Wisheart) #10

I think there needs to be engagement opportunities at the national level to see a more representative set of companies involved in the post-2015 dialogue. It would be interesting to hear from others in this discussion about engagement opportunities that businesses have in the countries they are from...

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(Mark Trotter) #11

I am intrigued by the concept that governments really count in this whole process.

As a businessperson who has linked with local businesses and communities in South and Central America, Africa and Asia using the virtual borderless world we have managed to trade successfully.

My clients have invested and continue to invest in communities through enterprise support, education and communication resources, not waiting for the glacial government to move forward.

Enterprise requires a fertile mind which is where economic growth occurs.

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(Michel Lavollay) #12

Dear Geoffrey,

Having an active platform is critical. We have the experience of such platforms on health, through so called "Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCMs)" that we established to support national authorities to identify, submit and monitor proposals to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS TB and Malaria. The Private Sector has been a participant in these CCMs and has played a positive role.

I believe these experiences could be brought to bear as we are looking at a more systematic partnership approach. Building open dialogue and trust takes time. It is also the case that the identification of a common goal has always been the first step, a development goal for which there isa business case, usually defined in a bottom up approach and bringing local NGOs onboard.

Working out the the functioning of a platform such as a CCM has also taken time, as well as characterizing a partnership mechanism sufficiently flexible to accommodate contributions from public and private according to expertise and capacity, what we came to call Co-investment. The Private Sector, according to national circumstances and culture, has gradually taken on more responsibilities in managing the governance process and engaging in joint programing to achieve the common goal.

Have you talked to the CCM in your country?

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(Darian Stibbe) #13

Hi Geoffrey,

Certainly dialogue platforms are an essential part of the mix. From the research we've been doing on such platforms what we've found that dialogue alone is rarely enough. Although people talk about dialogues building trust, I would suggest that dialogue can only ever be a beginning and it's action not words that builds trust. And by taking actions together - however small those actions might be - getting to know each other, fulfilling commitments that trust is truly built.

We'll come to a discussion on platform shortly, I believe!

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(Zahid Torres-Rahman) #14

Hi Todd - this is a text-based discussion. Please go ahead and post your comments and questions!

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(Neissan Besharati) #15

Hi everyone.

I agree with the comment of Jo.

But I also want to add that the right policy environment needs to be in place at local, national, regional and international to allow for business to engage in development.

Overall however business needs to have the incentives (or be made aware of them) for why should they engage and invest in development and poverty alleviation?

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(Amanda Bowman) #16

Hello all,

One of the key barriers that I have come across is that of development 'jargon'. If we want senior business people to engage at the highest level, we need to engage them using language that they recognise and somehow, without over-simplifying things, boil down our messages so that it is more attractive for business to engage. This is often something that disappears as an obstacle down the line as partnerships develop, but in the early stages seems like an important thing to tackle.

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(Darian Stibbe) #17

It's a written discussion, no audio.

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(Valerie Amato) #18

Barriers may be those of language (as mentioned earlier on the discussion), a lack of strong alignment with business objectives, the need for a strong business case, and difficulties of marrying short-term financial targets with long-term social goals.

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(Natalia Gutiérrez) #19

Albena I agree with you. In Panama our main concern is how to engage the Goverment into this kind of programms. Here in Latin America some of the Governments are not doing their functions figthing with poverty and is kind of hard ask the complanies to do the whole work alone.

They (companies and Government) are not used to have communication for common objetives -more than doing business, of course-.

Maybe that would be our first step; sit them toghether so they can realize there is a way throug public-private partnerships

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(Zahid Torres-Rahman) #20

For me, one of the striking things about The Partnering Initiative's work, and about this particular research, is the emphasis on taking the conversation and practice to the country level.


That is the focus of the second research finding - interested to hear people's thoughts:

National development planning processes can align more effectively with potential business contributions. Tanzania is one example where business appears to be engaging successfully in the creation of the country’s five-year development plan. However when we have suggested this kind of approach as a way forward during our interviews, a few people have responded that it risks leading to protectionism or market distortion. How can this risk be managed? What are the most effective and legitimate ways for business to play a meaningful and productive role in a country’s development planning process?

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